Thursday, March 29, 2012

Know Thyself...or Who the Heck am I, Anyway?

As a writer, I keep getting hit over the head with the advice to BRAND myself...Well, here in Texas, that doesn't sound like a pleasant experience. And who's going to check out my rear to find out what my brand is? I mean, I've already got two holes in each ear lobe, so couldn't I just have an ear tag? You know, like: Writer or Romance Writer or Thriller Writer? I could have a tag for each ear.

But seriously, I have had a tag that has stuck with me for ages. It's totally not related to writing. My family and friends refer to me as (hangs head) The Ziplock Lady. Yes, if you check my pantry you will find every size and style of resealable bags therein. I have the gallon size and the quart size and the pint size in regular and freezer style. I have sandwich bags and snack bags. And I have fallen in love with the kind that you can suck the air out of. Woo Hoo!!! Livin' large!

Now you may be asking yourself what any sane woman would need with so many different kinds of resealable bags, and I thank you for your assumption that I'm sane. I'm a writer and I'm not sure I've ever met any fellow authors who I would consider 100% in touch with reality...Occupational hazard. In addition to storing food in Ziplocks in the fridge, pantry and freezer, I also use them for traveling, cosmetics, medications, condiments, etc. Yes I have a few stashed in the car and in my handbag.

Once, when a friend was having a gall bladder attack and was screaming in pain, I bundled her into my car to rush her to the hospital. She said, "Pull over. I'm going to be sick." I handed her a gallon-size bag and kept driving to the emergency room. She would alternately scream in pain and hurl into the bag. I was driving with one hand on the steering wheel and patting her shoulder with the other...Oh, and did I mention that it was pouring rain and I was in Houston traffic? Thankfully, I got us to the hospital intact. When the orderly rushed out with a wheel chair, he helped my friend to be seated and looked at the bag-o-barf questioningly. I opened my baby blues real wide and said, "We can just dispose of this, can't we?" He looked relieved. 

So, I'm perfectly okay with being called The Ziplock Lady. I'm certain it won't help me sell any books or become known as an author with a brand. . .but, you can always count on me to have an extra tissue and a plastic bag in my purse to share. 
~J.D. Faver

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Part Two of Does your Bucket List Reflect Your Life?

Wow! It's Wednesday again. I apologize for not posting this morning. No excuses.
Last week I talked about the first five items on my Bucket List. This week I'll list the last five.

One reader responded and said she's living her Bucket list. I think that's wonderful, and she's one lucky woman! I think we should all be living our Bucket Lists.

But if we aren't, there are probably things we'd like to experience, and I believe that's a good thing. We all need dreams in our lives. Dreams lead to goals. Goals are what provide incentive for those dreams to become reality.

Sixth on my list is to stretch my writing boundary this year. To widen that goal will take a ton of planning, but I have plenty of time and motivation. Motivation and broadening ideas are worth any amount of time I put into it.

Seventh, I'd like to incorporate  spending more time with family. We're so spread apart, but there again time goes back to planning. I kid my mom all the time about having to pack a lunch to visit with her. As long as I come packing Fried Chicken, Mom's a happy woman. Oh, hot peppers and onion must accompany the meal. Mom's going to be ninety next month. I hope I have the energy and get-up-and-go when I reach that age. If I'm lucky!

Eighth, I'd so like to catch a huge fish. I'm not kidding. Fishing with hubby and son over the years, has given me a love of the sport, one they have in their soul. I don't fish often, but it's a lot of fun, I even bait my own hook. :) Once I went deep sea fishing off the coast of South Carolina. Once was enough. I was so, so sick. 'Nuff said. I still want to catch the big one!

Ninth brings me to finding a way to stop procrastinating. Working hard on this one. I don't know about you, but there are so many priorities in a twenty-four hour period, I keep black-lining through most of them and never get to the bottom of the list. Think, I'll start at the bottom and add new tasks underneath. Beginning tomorrow, :), the new me begins. Hey, it's long past January, so I should be able to keep this one.

Tenth transports me to another great love. Painting.  A brush, paint, and canvas. In my imagination I can do anything. I have so much fascination with the canvas and can't wait to dip my brush in buttery paste. I want to paint until the sun rises.

Carol DeVaney

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Favorite Snack

I’m a foodie. Okay, I admitted it. Probably not even politically correct these days, but I am.  I love the scent, taste and textures of different foods. I couldn’t even tell you what I would consider comfort food because the list would be too long. I’m partial to Mediterranean food since this is what I grew up on. I can’t even say Italian, even though that is my heritage. Greek and Syrian food often play into the menu too. My father’s family was from southern Italy. My mother’s from Sicily. Kitchen arguments abounded when I was a kid. Even though my father was the cook of the family, my mother would often have a few of her own recipes. When she tried to improve on my dad’s the final salvo in the argument would be his, “What do you know? You’re not even Italian,” referencing the fact that Sicily is not attached to the mainland. At which point the discussion was done. So we grew up on Italian salami, fried or not, on Italian bread, marvelous homemade soups with fresh greens, homemade pasta and fresh made sauces…well, the list goes on. And pizza. My grandmother and aunt had a pizza shop, so if we kids spent time at the shop or grandma’s we had pizza. Some orders weren’t picked up, or they might be too charred on the bottom, or the order was wrong. We took care of it. And they weren’t just lunch or supper foods -- we often had the leftovers at breakfast, or they would be snacks.

Today, my favorite snacks are tea and popcorn. All kinds of teas in various ways. For popcorn, plain is awesome. I think it should be its own food group. The biggest problem I have with popcorn is finding it in the stores. I’m not talking the microwave stuff. That almost doesn’t even taste like real popcorn to me. I’m talking the kernels that have to be popped. If I can find any in the store it is Orville Redenbacher and if I’m lucky, a store brand. Now I like Orville Redenbacher, but really can’t afford it all of the time. I did mention this was a staple, didn’t I? And most store brands are wimpy. In taste and pop.  To really enjoy the taste of popcorn, I like to microwave it in a brown paper bag (although I currently have white lunch bags).  One fourth a cup of popcorn kernels in the open bag, fold down the top, dampen it under water and toss it in the microwave. In my 1100 watt microwave it takes about  two minutes. You have to listen for the pops to slow to know it’s done. I keep meaning to add spices or even butter and salt now and then, but usually I’ve eaten the bag full before I remember.

Popcorn is probably my main snack food. What is yours?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Ah, Spring!...Memories of First Love

by JD Faver

When I was in the second grade I must have been irresistible, because I was the recipient of a very sincere declaration of undying love. My first admirer was a really cute boy named Eddie. He was tall and had hair the color of a carrot. In fact, all visible parts of Eddie were pretty much the color of a carrot. He had very pale skin and orange hair, eyebrows and freckles. He was great at games and always played with enormous enthusiasm. Eddie also had a speech impediment and could have done voice overs for Elmer Fudd. He got teased a lot, but he had a very upbeat personality and was able to give as well as he got. 

Eddie was always chasing me around, and because I was the girl, I got to be chased. The nuns did not think this was particularly lady-like and I remember having to sit, with Eddie while everyone else was playing. We were parked close to the sister who supervised the playground, our backs against the fence. On one particularly gorgeous spring afternoon, I heard my first declaration of true love. Eddie, ever the charmer, slipped his arm around me and said the words every girl longs to hear. He said, “You my eater bunny and I you eater bunny.” Well, hey…I was seven. 

To this day I have a special fondness for all things Easter. I bought Peeps last year for my beloved granddaughters and was informed that they no longer ate anything with high-fructose corn syrup or all that artificial coloring. Sadly, I had to eat two boxes of Peeps all by myself. And I thought of Eddie as I bit the ears off my high-fructose corn syrup eater bunny. Yes, I plan to stock up on Peeps again and won’t even pretend anyone else will eat them. Here’s lookin’ at you, Eddie…

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Does your Bucket List Reflect Your Life?

Okay. So My Bucket List has been on my mind lately. Most aren't grandeur or something out of reach. I live a simple life, I have simple wishes.

First and foremost is to watch my family live a Christian, healthy, prosperous life. God and family means everything and are primary in my life.

Second is to have a wonderful loving relationship with my husband. I have that.

Third is to live without regrets. Of  course we all have regrets, we aren't perfect. But I try to do the things that I should or shouldn't do. That's a work in progress!

Fourth is my passion. My writing. I accomplished publication and that was a dream come true. A few years ago, a poem I published still remains one of the most personal pieces from the heart I've ever written.
Love Is

Love is a misty rain;
The caress of a gentle breeze.
Glistening snowflakes;
A mountain in spring.
A glorious sunset;
Or in a summer's sky.
A baby's touch;
A soft voice.
It is yielding;
It is the moment just before
It carries no force;
It issues no pressure.
Love is mellow;
Ageless and unselfish.
It is wisdom;
With kindness.
It is forgiving;
Of imperfections.
It is the calm;
In the midst of a storm.
It is the quiet;
Of a hushed moment.
Love does not scold;
Nor rebuke.
It is majestic;
Not for the faint of heart.
It is tender;
Soft as a baby's skin.
Trusting, honest;
Consuming and strong;
Love is
~Carol DeVaney

Fifth would be to spend a month in Ireland on a writing retreat. Wouldn't that be the best? There's something about Ireland that draws my soul. Here's an Irish Blessing for you.
"May the friendships you make, be those which endure; and all of your grey clouds, be small ones for sure."

Next week I'll list the next five items on My Bucket List.

Are there any you'd like to share?

Carol DeVaney

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Time Management

Tons of things have been written on the subject. It’s a skill most people can learn. But after living with my family, I am convinced it really is more -- it’s an internal clock. Either it works or it doesn’t.  In a family of 4 we were split down the middle.

My husband and I were at opposite ends. Anthony and our son, Aaron, were the proverbial two peas in a pod. I never understood my husband so well until Aaron was born. That’s when I realized the internal clock thing was genetic. To this day, I ask him how he passed Kindergarten. He was perpetually late. (And yes, he was born 2 weeks late. In the afternoon. I didn’t realize then it was a sign of what he thought was a normal waking time.)

After Kindergarten, he didn’t grow out of being late. I used to have set one kitchen clock 10 minutes ahead or he would miss the bus to high school -- 45 minutes away. As it was, we chased the bus a fair number of times. If he wasn’t on the bus, kids would keep watch out the back window for my silver van and then tell the bus driver to pull over. The Thanksgiving after he graduated, we were all getting ready to sit at the dinner table, but Aaron still wasn’t there. I had been periodically calling up the stairs to him. Finally, just as everyone took a seat, he popped in, saying, “I thought you were going to say, ‘hurry up or you’ll miss the bus.’” My mantra for 4 years.

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Christopher. He did and still does everything quickly. My husband and Chris demonstrated the best example of disparity in time management skills. They were both sitting in the Family Room. Anthony got up and started to prepare a bowl of cereal. He took out the bowl and a spoon, placed them on the counter, then got the cereal from the pantry, opened the box, poured the cereal in a bowl, folded down the wax inner wrap, put the cereal away, then reached for the milk. Only there was none. There had been when he started. While he was fussing with the cereal, Christopher went into the kitchen -- walked behind Anthony, opened the refrigerator, took out the milk and Hershey’s chocolate syrup, grabbed a glass, poured, mixed, drank, put the glass in the dishwasher, and put the empty milk carton in the trash -- in front of Anthony.

When a distant cousin of my husband’s expressed amazement at my time management skills, she wanted to know how that happened. I told her, “It was from years of getting Manderino’s out the door on time.” Trust me, every single family member has heard that story. The older generation seems to appreciate it the most.

In case you would really like some time management tips, check out this list:

Friday, March 16, 2012

Irish Magic

Slainte! That was me raising my virtual mug of green beer to you.
There is a lot of Irish Magic going around in preparation for St. Patrick's Day. Here in Houston, the Buffalo Bayou will magically turn green overnight in honor of St. Paddy's Day...And in San Antonio, the same named river that meanders through downtown will magically turn green.
In my family, the Irish Magic took the form of potato soup. This recipe for potato soup came over on the boat with one of my foremothers during the potato famine. My grandmother still had the original recipe, written in a very pretty and loopy handwriting on somewhat brownish and crispy paper. This potato soup would magically cure whatever you happened to be suffering from. If you had a tummy ache, you were put to bed and served a bowl of potato soup and you always felt better soon afterward. (Thank goodness no one ever had appendicitis) The potato soup was used for colds and flu as well. My grandmother called it Irish Magic. I have come to think of it as Irish Penicillin.
In the March issue of Living With the Muse newsletter we shared some more recipes with you. If you didn't get it, you can check it out here->
 I'm sharing the family potato soup recipe with you today. Make some magic of your own.

Irish Potato Soup
I updated this recipe as I rarely have time to milk the cow and skim the cream off the morning's milk.

3 pounds peeled russet potatoes cut into chunks
1 medium onion, diced
3 stalks celery with leaves, chopped
3 cans chicken stock or water with chicken bouillon cubes
White pepper
1 tall can evaporated milk
1 stick butter or margarine

Place potatoes, celery and onion in a large stockpot. Add enough chicken stock or water (with bouillon cubes) to generously cover. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and mash the vegetables, slightly. I just use a potato masher or a fork against the side of the pan. You still want it to be chunky, but mashing part of it makes it rich and creamy. Add entire stick of butter and can of evaporated milk. Add white pepper and salt to taste.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Experience River Street, Savannah, Georgia

River Street is on the Savannah River, Savannah, Georgia, one of the most nostalgic cities anywhere. Watch the old tug boats and see The Waving Girl Statue, Florence Martus, where she greets visitors and ships. Some of the most delectable foods are yours during your stay. Take tours of the grand old city, shop and enjoy the night life that's forever ongoing.

Among civil war military forts and battle sites that are must visits, Savannah hosts the third largest St. Patrick's Day Parade and festivals in the world.  Third only to Dublin, Ireland and New York, New York.
Gotta tell you, if you aren't in Dublin or New York, Savannah is the place to be. There, you'll find old bookstores, art galleries and shops for your every whim. Since Georgia is known for peanuts, of course there's a peanut shop where you can find the ultimate treat for yourself and pack away several items for friends and family. Delicious!

If you love candy, and I don't know too many who don't, the candy stores there are to die for. The butter pecans are the best I've ever had. Lord, the pralines alone are enough to make you want to dance on the streets. You may see a bit of dancing in the streets, so don't be shy if you want to kick up your heels.

Sit by the river and relax and take in all the festivities. If you get a chance to visit, you won't regret the trip.

Happy St. Patrick's Day to everyone in two days, nine hours and forty-seven minutes. I hope you have a great day!

Carol DeVaney