Monday, April 30, 2012

The Titanic

It’s been one hundred years ago this month since the Titanic sank in the North Atlantic Ocean. Thousands of lives were affected, more than the 1,514 passengers who perished that night.  It was a horrific accident at the time, and one that lives on in books and films. The real drama that unfolded is unmistakable and perhaps that is what appeals to everyone.

Recently, our small town held a Titanic Event. People were encouraged to come dressed as the passengers of the titanic would have been, whether first class or not, so there was a wide variety of costumes from exotic evening gowns to babushkas. The menu of that last fateful dinner was recreated and a speaker presented information, focusing on the 14 Finnish passengers who were bound for this small town on the Monongahela River.

This area of southwestern Pennsylvania is very old world European. Most people arrived here from one boat or another during the industrial age. Many have stayed. Many more have moved on. My husband used to say, “No matter where you go, you meet someone from this small town because they all moved away.” Sad, but mostly true.

 In spite of what seems like a mass exodus at times, there are treasures to be found in the area, whether in the people or the things. In an area rich in the country’s heritage, it’s still a popular spot for antique dealers and hunters. You never know what can be found in the barns, basements and attics of the old farms and homesteads. In one attic the owner uncovered a rare book, The Sinking of the Titanic and Great Sea Disasters. The book is a bit yellowed, but in otherwise excellent condition. Only one of several known copies left in the world. The find was particularly exciting to the owner since the book was a first edition published not long after the Titanic sank.

If you would like to take a peek at the book contents, check out Project Gutenberg (I did say it was my favorite site!)

Friday, April 27, 2012

All That We Are…

I have been thinking this past couple of weeks about what I am. Or I should say, all that I have become. After twenty years in healthcare, I thought I had left that venue behind, but a friend asked me to be his sister’s caretaker while her family was out of the state and out of the country. This poor lady had been in the hospital twice and was quite debilitated. I agreed to watch over her as though she were my own for a two-week period. However, a few days into the arrangement, I became alarmed over her poor respiration and sent her to the ER in an ambulance. They admitted her and I slept on an extremely uncomfortable hospital chair for 3 nights and finally followed the ambulance to a very lovely nursing home with rehab therapies to get her back on track.
For my friend’s sister, who has been totally independent, this has been quite a shock and now, she’s trying to come to terms with the frailty of her body. She doesn’t want to eat in the dining room with all the “old people” because it’s “so depressing”. She’s only seventy-nine and hopes to get back to her life as soon as possible.
Being with her in this facility has focused my attention on my own life. I too, think of myself as being an independent woman. I love not being in charge of anything much, for once in my life, except for my commitment to write every day. I have pets: two elderly cats and a yappy little dog. So, in addition to being J.D. Faver, Author, I’m also the Doggie Mom and the Kitty Mom. My two children are grown and out fending for themselves in the big old world, but I am still their mom and I am “Nana” to two beautiful granddaughters. I am an avid gardener, so I have to take care of plants inside and out. Inside I have a herd of orchids sharing the countertop with some violets. In my kitchen window, I have another collection of plants, including several Christmas and Easter cacti and an assortment of cuttings growing in the little glass bottles from the Starbucks 4-pack of lattes and mochachinos. Great recycle usage. Outside plants in front and back require the occasional watering and pruning. I belong to several organizations and hope I contribute as much as I receive. Love my family and love my friends. So I’m a writer, a mom, a grandma, a friend, a pet slave, a plant lover, a contributing member of organizations. Is that how I will ultimately be defined?
But how would I feel if all this independence was taken away from me? Yeah, I would be just as disenfranchised as my friend’s sister. Take a look at your own life and make a list. What would you miss the most if you lost your ability to be independent? Long list isn’t it?
I think this experience will make me more mindful of all that I have and all that I do. I am the absolute boss of me…and I want to stay that way…
J.D. Faver

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Baseball or Books?

At some point we do what we want or need to do. Today, I saw a post on the internet that showed a man at a ballgame. What was the man doing? No, at the particular moment a camera captured him, he wasn't watching the game. He was reading a book! I think that's fabulous. I love when men read and don't care who sees them doing so.

Now, I'm sure the man was evidently good at multi-tasking. He most likely had on eye on the game, and the other on his book.

I thought about the man and wondered if he went to the ballgame so he could read without interruption. :) I'm kidding!

I know I'm a multi-tasker. I've been known to sit in the grocery store parking lot to finish a chapter. I can watch the ballgame with my hubby, work on the computer, write, read, text, prepare dinner, and whatever else, all without breaking a sweat! Hubby shakes his head.

Don't you just love those books you can't lay aside? I do, but don't read those "Can't Put Me Down" books too quickly. I like to savor each word, though at times that's a hard thing to do. Those are the books I read over and over after a period of time passes.

Are you a multi-tasker? What are some of the things you do all at once without thinking about what you're doing?

Thank you for visiting. I'd love to read your answers.

Carol DeVaney

Monday, April 23, 2012

Sharing the Treasure

Today I want to talk about Project Gutenberg ( ) – a pioneer in the ebook field, much in the same way the Gutenberg press revolutionized printing in the mid-1400s. According to the Project Gutenberg page, the founder, and inventor of ebooks, Michael Hart, made the first electronic text available in 1971. It was the Declaration of Independence.

Project Gutenberg takes Public Domain Works and puts them in electronic format. Over the years, that format has grown from simple plain text to html, kindle, epub and others. Some are also available as audio. As a reader, with over 38,000 texts to choose from, Project Gutenberg is a delight. As a writer and researcher, it is a treasure! In the past, I have downloaded a book on the rules of dueling in the 1700s. I recently downloaded Ladies on Horseback, instruction for women riders in the 1880s. Without doing a major road trip and serious hunting, where else could I find such gems?

I first discovered Project Gutenberg in 2002 and thought it was fascinating. I didn’t realize how valuable it could be until 2003, when my son was in high school. He came to me at 8:00 on a Sunday night and said he needed three books to bring in to English class. The teacher would then choose one of the three books for them to do their report on. I immediately sent him up to the attic to search our books since I knew we had at least two of the titles. He came back down with one (A real shocker, right?) The library was closed and there are no book stores nearby. Since the books were classics, I introduced him to Project Gutenberg. Yep. They had the books , although only available in plain text way back then. He loaded them on a disk and took them to school. The teacher had never heard of such a thing and had my son pull the books up on the computer.

I encourage you to explore Project Gutenberg and see what you can discover.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sunday is Earth Day!

I had prepared another post when it dawned on me (duh!) that Sunday would be Earth Day. I always try to do something memorable to celebrate it, or at least be mindful of our planet on that day. I'm sure that you all have wonderful suggestions that would never occur to me, so please share. 
I'm a fanatic recycler. I fill my bright red recycle bin with my newspaper and other paper discards. I also go around stomping on aluminum and plastic to maximize the space. I don't use as much glass as some, so I don't often have glass in my recycle pile. I do re-use or re-purpose some throw away items in my own unique way <snicker> For instance, I reuse those cute little bottles of Starbucks Frappachino that come in the 4-packs. I have a row of them on my kitchen window ledge filled with cuttings that I'm rooting. And every day, I use a plastic grocery bag to gift wrap my small amount of actual trash to throw out. It just hangs on the pantry door and I use the same bag to scoop the cat litter, then tie the handles up and trot it out to the actual trash can. At this rate it takes me at least two to three weeks to have enough actual trash in the actual trash can to make it worthwhile to roll it to the actual curb. But the recycle bin is always full to overflowing and sitting on the curb every week.
My daughter has some unique ways of recycling. She uses the 40 pound plastic cat litter buckets for plants. Her handsome hubby drills holes in the bottom and she fills them with potting soil and plants. Her home in the  sandy soil of the Piney Woods doesn't nourish much else than the tall pine and oak trees on their property, so  the hubby built her lots of raised beds in which she grows all manner of fruits and veggies and flowers. I rinsed out a couple of the huge cat litter jugs with lids and stored water in them in case of emergency. We do get the occasional hurricane and although I have another store of drinkable water, this might be just the thing for washing up. My daughter uses the big glass pasta sauce jars to make scented candles. And she asks me to save my dryer lint for her. They love to go on camping trips and use dryer lint to start their campfire. It's lightweight and portable.
Most of all, on Earth Day, I visit a nursery and buy a few plants. Getting my hands in the dirt is the best way to celebrate the day. So Happy Earth Day. How do you plan to spend the day?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Celebration of Life
Sunday we celebrated ninety years we've been blessed to have our mom. She's an amazing woman, in that she still can get around and has a pretty sharp mind. Once in a while she's a bit fuzzy about dates and other issues, but at ninety she still can keep us in line. :) She still likes to dress up and is fussy with how her hair looks.

There are four of us from Mom and Dad's marriage, and from each of their second marriages, they produced six more children. From my dad's second marriage there is another child. That makes a total of eleven children! Every size, shape and personality keeps us on our toes. I will say, it's hard to keep track of birthdays and anniversaries. I'm guilty of forgetting several, but I'm always forgiven. Thank goodness.

I remember when my mom used to lift our spirits and jitter-bug for us! Her dancing completely slipped my mind. She still loves music and can move to the beat. My grandfather, among other things, taught singing lessons and music. As a young woman, he taught my mom to play a mandolin. I asked her what year she learned, but she couldn't remember. Said she was probably eleven or twelve. My grandfather was also a minister and lived close to Cherokee, North Carolina. Mom said today, the Indians sent one of their council to ask him to travel to Cherokee to preach for them. I think that's pretty cool. She says the church is still there, located along the river. I'd love to see it.

So many memories are left behind if we don't take time to ask questions and hold those memories close. I believe love of family and traditions are important to pass to our own children.

Feeling blessed today.

Many thanks, and courtesy of Kristina Knight, for allowing me to post her Slow Cooker Chicken Soup. This soup is delicious. As soon as I read it on her blog Tuesday, I ran to the grocery and purchased the ingredients. After the chicken baked, the crock pot was filled in a matter of minutes. I pulled some cornbread muffins from the freezer, so dinner tonight is done! Kristina's right. The whole house smells terrific. If you like Chicken Soup, this one's a winner.

by Kristina Knight

We've been making this recipe in my family for a lot of years. My mom created it first, and we call it Slow Cooker Chicken Gumbo - but since it's 1) not spicy and 2) doesn't have rice and 3) doesn't have sausage or other Cajun stuff I thought I'd just re-name it for this blog. Don't wanna be falsely advertising ya know!

I love this because I can throw the ingredients in a crock pot in the morning and by dinner the whole house smells mucho-yummy! Try it on a rainy day - I think you'll love it!

1 can of chicken broth
1 can cream of celery soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
4-5 stalks of celery, chopped up
4-5 large carrots, chopped up
1 onion, chopped up (this isn't mandatory, if you don't like onion don't include it)
4-5 chicken breasts, shredded (if you prefer dark meat, use thighs instead)
1 handful of Angel Hair pasta, broken up

Directions: Bake the chicken at 350 for 1 hour, allow to cool - you could even bake the chicken the day before, if you have a super busy day planned. Once cooled, shred up the chicken. NOTE: You can leave the skin on or take it off. Either way works. Toss the soups, celery, carrots and onion in a crock pot and stir. Add the shredded up chicken. NOTE #2: if it doesn't look like you have enough pasta, add a bit more. Put the crock pot on low if you're slow-cooking all day, on high if you only have 3 or so hours, put the lid on the crock pot and forget it.

Hope you enjoy the soup. I left out the pasta, because we're having cornbread, but added onions. We're an onion eating family!

I hope you make some memories today.

Until next time, I wish you butterflies, music and love.

Carol DeVaney

Sunday, April 15, 2012

More Free Reads

Gear up for more free reads!

If you missed the opportunity to download June’s Romantic Thriller, On Ice or Tara’s Paranormal Suspense, you get another chance.

Both titles will be free downloads on Amazon on Tuesday, April 17 and Wednesday, April 18.

To check out the freebies, go to the links below. And by all means, share the wealth, make sure you tell others of these free offers.

On Ice, by J.D. Faver

Bound by Blood, by Tara Manderino

We hope you enjoy the reads!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

It’s Your Lucky Day!...Friday the 13th

Do you feel lucky today? Well, do you punk?
Go ahead…Make my day…Reach for it….A good book, that is.  
And make your day lucky…by downloading three free books written by your Living With the Muse authors.  Tara Manderino, Carol DeVaney and J.D. Faver are each offering a coupon for a free e-book download.
To check out the freebies, go to the links below and, if you choose to download any of all three of the novels, just type in the coupon code and the download will be free. 

Badlands by J.D. Faver          Coupon code AN74L

Taking Chances by Tara Manderino           Coupon code BP94R

Perfect Match by Carol DeVaney         Coupon code HM47A

We hope you enjoy your lucky Friday the 13th and your free reads.
by J.D. Faver

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Men in Blue

So, the blog I was going to post blasted into POOFLand! Is that a word? 'Fraid not, but it looks kind of weird, (I'm partial to weird) and sounds effective when it rolls off my tongue. :)

On unexpected errands today I wondered if I should try to rewrite the same post or something else. My thoughts kept going back to last night.


Okay, we went on our nightly walk at the soccer field last night. All was well. The park was filled with every type and shape person, happy kids played, while others cried, dogs barked and soccer balls flew over the fence.

Then a police car squealed around the bend and pulled over a speeder. Nothing out of the ordinary. I was making my second round when police sirens began to come from different directions. Two police cars stopped about a quarter mile up the hill beside the park's side-gated entrance, still another pulled into the park and parked close to a wooded area. A minute later another comes barreling into the park. Policemen were everywhere.

Naturally my mind went into third gear. If, if,  there was a lawbreaker on the loose, I worried about everyone's safety, mostly the children. I have a wild imagination and thought if someone was on the loose, they could step on the track and no one would be the wiser. Yikes!

Then what?

Finished the walk, stretched, and waited for hubby. As we drove in the direction of the gate, there was another police car parked above the other two police cars. Four houses from the gate, three police car parked in a driveway set me on alert. Okay, I admit, my thoughts were in a whirl.I could only imagine what went on in that house.

I wanted to stomp down on the gas pedal, but decided that would be an unwise decision with the police all around. Before I reached the end of the block, sirens set off again. Police cars banded together on the main road near the entrance to the woods surrounding the park.

If there was someone in the woods, they'd never make it out without meeting with our brave men in blue.

I have the highest respect for our law enforcement. I wonder how they feel in trying times such as these when they follow unsavory persons into the unknown. Yet, there they are, ready for action no matter what the situation.

I, for one, support our officers and admire their bravery.

So the next time I'm late and feel the urge to speed, or hear of a criminal act, I'll remember our men in blue.

They're all around us.

Carol DeVaney

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Monday

Aside from acknowledging it as the day that follows Easter, little attention is given to Easter Monday in the United States. That’s not quite the case in Europe where it is an official holiday. Stores are closed and festivities are held in different towns. Italians often celebrate with picnics, the Dutch build large bonfires called Paasvuur (Easter fires).

In Poland, Easter Monday is known as Wet Easter Monday, or Lany Poniedzialek. This may have been the origin of the wet t-shirt contest! Here boys try to drench girls with buckets of water, squirt guns or whatever  is available. The tradition is if a girl receives a drenching she will marry within the year. The soaking tradition is also alive and well in Buffalo, NY. But typically America, it’s not just girls only getting wet. It’s everyone.

I like the idea of a low key holiday following the big lead up to Easter, if for no other reason than to recuperate from preparing and indulging in the Easter brunch and Easter dinner feast. Hope you had a wonderful Easter. I'm thinking about the left over cheese blintz casserole for lunch. This is a totally awesome dish if you are a fan of cheese blintz! I discovered this recipe about 20 years ago and it has been an Easter morning staple since then.  As my son pointed out, I only make this once a year. Enjoy.

Cheese Blintz Casserole
From Bon Appetite -- traditional

12 servings

Cheese filling
1 ½  lb. ricotta cheese
2 (8-oz each) pkgs cream cheese, room temperature
2 eggs
¼ cup sugar
3 ½ TBSP fresh lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon peel
1 tsp grated orange peel
1/8 tsp salt

1 cup all purpose Flour, sifted
1 TBSP baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
½ cup sugar
3 eggs
¼ cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract or ½ tsp almond extract

sour cream
strawberry jam

For filling: Using electric mixer, beat all filling ingredients until blended (can be prepared one day in advance)

For batter: Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Butter (I use PAM) 9 x 13 inch baking pan.
Combine flour, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Mix in butter, sugar, eggs, milk and vanilla extract.

Pour half of batter into prepared dish. Spoon filling over, gently spreading without mixing into batter. Pour remaining batter over filling. Bake until set - about 1 ½ hours.

To serve: cut into squares. Serve warm, passing sour cream and jam separately.