Monday, May 28, 2012

Hot Stuff Cool Cat

After a super mild winter in southwestern PA, it seems we are to be hurled into a scorching summer. I may complain about the snow, but am so not a summer person. My brother had his Memorial Day picnic on Sunday. A hot, sunny day of 91 degrees F and a heat index of 95. It was fine for the pool people. The rest of us were equally wet, melting in the sun. He had plenty of shaded areas, but there is simply no escaping the heat.

I was in charge of bringing the cake. I made one with yellow cake mix and mandarin oranges, topped with vanilla pudding, crushed pineapple and Cool Whip®. Totally refreshing cake. But all I could think of on Saturday night was that it was going to be hot out there. Ice pops or Italian ice would taste great. The problem would be keeping them frozen. That’s when the proverbial light bulb went off!

I have an ice shaver in the house. Two, actually. One is electric and one manual. After a hunt for the electric one, I made sure it worked. But what if everyone wanted one at the same time? Maybe I should bring the manual one. Dug that one out of storage. I love the shaved ice on the manual machine, but it really calls for a special block of ice. With nothing to lose, I tossed in some ice cubes to see how it would work. As long as there was a lot of ice in the holder, it worked fine.  Two ice machines packed and ready to go.

The plan was to run by Wal Mart and get the syrup, spoons and Styrofoam® cups – and ice. Good plan. Wal Mart only had one brand of ice syrup that I could find so bought several flavors. (Be warned, the Hawaiian Punch® brand green is not lime. The label says it’s some kind of berry, but it tastes like green apple.) Loaded the goodies in my cart and headed for the check out.

At the register, I had the checkout girl ring up 2 large bags of ice. Loaded everything into the car, including the two 22 lb bags of ice, which I put in the cooler. The lid didn’t close completely, but figured it would be fine for my short trip. Turned out that one of the bags had a hole in it – couldn’t have possibly been from my lugging and tugging – so I took out one of the ice cubes and popped it in my mouth. They weren’t cubes at all, but the cylinders with a hole in the center, exactly the ice I didn’t want. The last time I had bought this brand, they were cubes. Stopped at the local convenience store and asked the clerk if he knew if the ice was cubes or cylinders. After looking at me strangely, he believed they were cubes. Since there were bags in the inside cooler, I checked. Yep. Cubes. Just what I needed for the ice shaver to work correctly. So even though I wanted two bags I could only get one because I had no idea where to put the thing. I had an insulated bag in the car so dropped one of the cylinder ice bags into it. I now had 66 lbs of ice and have sweat dripping from every pore on my body. Seriously thought about just sitting on one of the bags. Naturally, there was no place close to park when I got to the party so I had to stop in the middle of the street and wrestle with the cooler and then the insulated bag, Forget the other stuff!

By the time I made it to the party, my 66 lbs of ice was no secret. One person wanted to know if I planned on opening a stand. Grrrr… Just for the record, we did use a good 30 lbs of ice.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Best Friends J.D. Faver

Maintaining friendships, in the transient world in which we live is not always easy. If you happen to live in the same town in which you grew up, you probably have retained most of your friends from grade school, unless they, with a more adventurous spirit have moved far away.
Some people are not able to finish school in the same area they started. Parents changing jobs, divorce rending families apart and military families are just a few causes of frequent changes of location. If one does graduate with the same group you started kindergarten with, it’s a rare thing. Another hurdle to friendship lies ahead when some of your classmates go off to different colleges or find work in other locations. Sometimes, the intention is to get the degree and return, but often times, this is not the way it actually shakes out.
When some of the classmates meet that special someone and make a commitment to marry, this often takes them to another location. Starting a brand new life together, but often there are friends left behind who will not be entirely forgotten, but nonetheless neglected as the friendship takes a backseat to new events in one’s busy life.
In my own life, I have been blessed with so many wonderful friendships. And I have been totally naïve as to the longevity of these friendships.
Meeting someone with whom you can develop a closeness, is a wonderful thing. Finding someone with similar values and interests helps us to align ourselves with that person. The more time we spend cultivating that friendship, the more valuable it becomes. Our mutual love of orchids, or photography might be enough for us to decide there would be other things we might share. A movie? A cup of coffee?
How about friendships developed through institutions such as church? The PTA? Your archery club or Zumba class? Yes, those are good too.
Whatever the source of your friendship, it’s a good thing to take stock every once in a while and make sure you’re caring for your friendships at least as well as you’re taking care of the rose bushes that line the driveway.
Investing in friendships is mostly about time. Taking time to make a phone call or jot a note…although now, it’s more like sending an email, texting or IMing your friend. Face time is a rare commodity, but one well worth the investment. Having coffee at a Starbucks with a friend? How about lunch or dinner? Taking a walk with a neighbor?
It’s so easy to slide through your day without touching anyone. Wake up. Go to work, come home. Flick on the tube and lose yourself in the media. Go to bed. Rinse. Repeat…
Have a virtual life…
One of my friends from college is going to be in Texas for a visit…and I’m going to do my best to hook up with her. We were room-mates one summer and I enjoyed her friendship so much. Jane and I had many characteristics in common and in other ways we were totally different. What I loved about her most were her sweet disposition and great sense of humor. She always had her sunny side up. I loved her creative and artistic abilities. Although she left Texas to finish her degree in Valparaiso, Indiana, we kept up our friendship through the good old US Postal system. We got married and had babies…suffered tragedies and accomplished goals…but deep inside, we are the same people we were then…Just a little battle-scarred on the outside. I connected with her on FaceBook these many years later and it was like finding treasure. I hope you have enduring friendships that stand the test of time and that you’re investing your time and yourself in these priceless relationships 
Have a real life...

J.D. Faver is an author of romantic suspense and contemporary romance living in Texas with small, yappy dog and two elderly cats. Blessed with family and friends, she writes what the voices in her head scream at, wait! That's the dog. :-)

Carving Time

I don't know about you, but time keeps slipping away. I have a priority list, but the thing is, there are seven priorities at the top of the list. I gotta skim the list and prioritize my priority list! How's that for making the day work for you? Backing up isn't my idea of getting it done.

As I write this, I'm behind on writing, editing, cutting grass, other yard work, we won't even get into house work.

My eyes keep going to the clock. Minutes tick away.

My neighbor retired a couple of years ago. We talked and she was so excited about having time to do all those little things she'd never gotten around to.

You know, relax on the deck with a cup of coffee, take long leisurely walks, set up a couple of cruises a year, paint, whatever your little heart desires. Yeah, retirement is all about chilling out, not having a nervous breakdown. I smiled. I felt for her. I smiled again. I hadn't the heart to tell her life would be busier than when she had a job. Why burst her bubble so soon?

A few weeks later, rather frustrated, she called. "Why didn't you tell me my life wouldn't be my own after retirement?" she asked.

I smiled a sad smile. Over the phone, I heard her blow out a long hard breath.

"How do you get everything done?"

"Well, I have this list on my frig, and I try to do as many things on the list daily, so I won't get backed up."

I didn't tell her I ran in circles most of the time. But, I'd managed to lose weight and tan a little while I did yard work :)

I thought about moving, maybe then, I'd clean out unnecessary items I'd planned on getting rid of. Who wants to lose money selling a house? Then, The Kidney Foundation called. Did I have any items, no matter how small or what it was, that I would like to donate? Thank you, Lord! Oh, yeah. I had plenty they could have. I called my neighbor and put a bug in her ear. If she wanted to donate anything she could begin cleaning out her closets. The suggestion went over well with her and we set up a pick-up on the same day. Viola! Now all we had to do was find time to gather items we thought the foundation could use. I suggested she do what I do. Three baskets. One with worthy items to donate, one for throw-a-way items and one for maybe. We all have those maybe baskets, don't we?

Back to the priority list. Neighbor asked how I managed to get so much done and still do everything else. I admitted my days were going about as hectic as hers. I suggested we set a schedule for certain chores. Finish them. I had found myself doing partial chores so I could get around to more on any particular day. Doesn't work. The unfinished chores still stare me down. The list grows smaller, but daily, a new chore is added to the list. Of course.

The clock in the hall has struck 2:30. That's all the time I have to write, until I make a mad dash to the grocery, bank and cut the grass.

Since the mower is a rider, I won't get too much exercise, but it will allow time to plot my next scene for the book I'm behind on writing! One good thing. I won't hear the phone ring.

How do you carve out time for yourself?

Carol DeVaney

Monday, May 21, 2012

Revolving Door of Summer

It’s not officially summer, but the weather is barreling along in that direction. My house – more specifically, my kitchen door thinks summer has arrived. It is seldom closed. I seriously contemplated installing a revolving door. Think of the advantages! I’m sure I could teach Lydia how to go through it. No more up and down, open and close every time she sees the chipmunk run under the deck. More accurately, it’s every time she hears it so this occurs every 10 minutes or so. It would make it convenient for my guests and easy for me as I run in an out playing taxi. Mostly, we all use the kitchen door. It’s the most practically located. It’s also the door that has had the most issues. I have two of the same doors – one in the dining room and one in the breakfast area. Something about the one in the breakfast area just never wants to sit right. For a while, the locksmith was a pretty regular visitor. It was to the point I would call his business and if he wasn’t in, his wife would take a message. As soon as I would give my name, she identified my house and gave me his cell phone number to call him at another job!  

Everything considered, I really think a revolving door would work. I would gladly give up the space needed in my kitchen. Besides, I’ve wanted to replace the kitchen table with a corner nook for years. Too bad the cost is prohibitive. Maybe I could settle for a people (and dog) counter so I know how many times the threshold is crossed. :)

~ Tara


Have you ever thought how similar we are to spiders? Yes, spiders. I'm not kidding. We just aren't creepy, crawly things. :)

While I sat on the deck yesterday morning, I noticed something swaying and glistening from one of our Silver Maple trees. When it caught the sun's ray, I realized it had to be a spider web, and couldn't believe how long it was.

As a spider weaves its web, we also weave our webs to grab whatever life has in store for us. Sometimes those webs attach to not so good things, but mostly we grab hold of the best of our decisions and wrap them in a cocoon for safe keeping.

As the spider works, we also diligently work to gather our own food. Except other material objects we want or need, the spider has no use for those things and can focus on their need. They are focused.

I think of my mom when she was younger. She had a hard time raising her children, but always reached out to other kids in the neighborhood. But the one thing I remember most about those days was, no matter how little we had, she always shared with the ones who had less. Her heart was gentle and big. So she reached out with her web and pulled in those who needed help without a thought. I could go on and on about the unselfish acts my mom performed, but for now it's enough to know she did them without malice or forethought. Helping others was simply the next thing to do.

I'm a people watcher. While at the grocery store I see so many souls that are sad, down and out. A smile, a genuine smile, is enough to lift their spirits. And a smile is good for your heart, too. For one moment you have given freely of yourself.

I hope I continue spinning my web. I'm not one to toot my own horn, but I believe in reaching out to the point where what I do, or say, makes a difference.

Today, I'm Spider-Webbing with my grandson. Lunch at school. To some, lunch may not be a biggie. my grandson and myself, that time together is huge. I bind my web along with his and together we're making memories that will last a lifetime. To me, that's the biggest web-spinner of all.

Are you Spider-Webbing?

Carol DeVaney

Monday, May 14, 2012

Tea Wallet

Aside from writing and reading, I thoroughly enjoy sewing, especially useful little projects that can be whipped up quickly. This Tea Wallet fits in that category perfectly. I was trying to think of something little to give my sister for Mother's Day.  She's as bad as I am when it comes to carrying tea bags and sweetener around in her purse. I had seen one tea wallet for sell in a catalog some time ago but it was much larger than what I was looking for. So, Saturday night (the day before Mother's Day) I decided to make my own. This is the result. Unfortunately, the photos I have are from the prototype and is rather messy, but it will give you an idea of the placement.

Draw pattern. Be sure to add ¼ inch for seam allowance.

Cut two rectangles  11” x 6 ½”  (adding ¼ inch for seam allowance). These rectangles can be the same or contrasting as one will be the lining.
Cut two rectangles 3” x 2” (adding ¼ inch for seam allowance).  Cut from whatever you choose as the exterior fabric. This will be the flap.
Small square of Velcro®

With right sides together, sew the two small rectangles on both long sides and one short side. Clip the corners and turn right side out. Press.
With right sides together, sew the two larger rectangles together on two short sides and one long side.

Insert the flap between the layers of the larger rectangles, raw edges meeting. (The flap will be inside at this point.) Place it so the bottom edge if the flap is three inches from the bottom.

Stitch, leaving a small opening for turning. It’s best to leave the opening closer to the side that does not have the flap.

Clip corners. Turn right side out. Tuck in the raw edges from the turn. Press.

Fold bottom up two inches on either end. Pin in place. Edge stitch on long sides, careful to keep the flap free and to catch the pressed edges.

Cut a small piece of Velcro ®. Sew the soft side to the inside of the flap. The stiff side will be sewn to the outside of the wallet. To figure placement, close the wallet, wrap the flap, leaving some slack, and pin or mark where the stiff piece should be.  Stitch in place, careful not to catch the inside pocket of the wallet.

Fold the wallet in half vertically and mark the centers. Stitch from the folded edge to the edge of the pocket. Repeat on the opposite side. 

Add tea bags and sweetener close it up and pop in your purse. (I also added a coffee bag, just because I could!)

Here are a few photos from my prototype – complete with errors. Once I worked it out, I made several for gifts and gave them away before thinking to take photos. I learned the curved edge on the flap wasn’t going to work for me and the rectangles were much better. 

~ Tara

Placement of Velcro(R)
Tea Wallet opened
Closed and compact

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Black-eyed Peas

Okay, so  hubby and I discussed dinner for yesterday. I needed extra time to take care of writing related issues I had gotten behind on, so I wanted to simplify things, throw something tasty together and forget it. Hubby mentioned black-eyed peas would be good to go along with the kale and sweet potatoes. Easy-peasy dinner, time to write. Yay!
The roast I thought was in the freezer, wasn't there. I'd forgotten to replace it when I cooked the last one a couple of weeks ago. No problem, I thought. Chicken will be just as good, except then I remembered we'd had Rotisserie chicken Monday, and Tuesday I'd made chicken salad from its leftovers. I kept digging in the freezer for anything that I could throw into the crock-pot. No such luck. I made my way back inside the kitchen, hoping against hope, the perfect protein would jump out at me.    :)   Didn't happen. Both freezers were full, but nothing simple to prepare.
Did I have black-eyed peas? You guessed it. Not a bean in sight. By now I was ready to order in the perfect dinner. I didn't, because hubby had a taste for black-eyed peas, and by gosh he was going to get them.
By now it was four in the afternoon. I know. Procrastination is my middle name. The crock pot meal wouldn't have time to cook. I jotted down a few other items, and off to the grocery I went. I made quick work of racing through the isles and finally wound up at the bean and pasta section. Were there black-eyed-peas on the shelf? Of course not. I couldn't believe the huge grocery store chain was out of such a simple staple.
A nice young man was kind enough to check in the back for a bag of black-eyed peas. After about five minutes, he came back only to inform me there were none in the stockroom either.
"Must have been a run on peas," he said.
Okay, I envisioned telling him I wanted to have a talk with their buyer. That would be a good run! Instead, I bit my bottom lip, then thanked him for his trouble. The case of the missing black-eyed peas wasn't his fault.
Canned peas aren't my favorite, but they certainly held intrigue today. Still, I by-passed the canned food isle, and contemplated telling hubby the bean crop had a bad year. Just kidding! :)
Now, with less time than ever, I'd have to go to another grocery a few miles away to shop for those blasted black-eyed peas. The pressing thought that I hated black-eyed peas filled my head.
Finally after waiting in line for what seemed forever, 'course it was probably only a few minutes, I paid and started to leave.
"Ma'am, do you want the rest of your groceries?" the cashier asked.
I was horrified. Never had I been so careless as to leave purchases. I laughed it off and headed to the other grocery. Well, by then, if the roast didn't get started, it wouldn't be done by seven. Luckily another car wasn't behind me, because I slammed on the brakes and swung the car into my driveway before going shopping again.
In the house, I flipped on an eye, and set an iron skillet over the flame. The flame was hotter than my  brain at the moment, but it was a  close call. Had to strip a layer of fat off the bottom of the roast, seasoned it, then slapped it into the skillet to sear. Washed and wrapped the sweet potatoes, then popped them into the toaster oven. Flipped the roast, then washed the Kale and set aside. Turned the fire under the roast to low, slammed a lid over it, and flew out the door.
Can you tell by now, I'm hotter than the flame under the roast?
Fast forward. Hubby thanked me for a wonderful meal, and those words made the trying afternoon worthwhile.
I did give hubby a good piece of advice. "Let me know a week ahead of time when you want black-eyed peas again."  :)
What's the most frustrating meal you've ever prepared? Come on. I know you've experienced at least one.
Carol DeVaney

Monday, May 7, 2012

Cinderella’s Shoes

My latest foray is into shopping is for a new pair of sneakers. This shouldn’t be an issue. I wear sneakers when doing outdoor activities or walking around a park all day. I don’t need to spend $100+ for sneakers with super shock absorbers. I don’t even see that I need to spend $50. And that is part of the problem. My hunt for sub $50 sneakers is getting tougher all the time. The front of my foot is wide, the heel very narrow. It’s one of the reasons I like sneakers – and boots. I can walk and my footwear comes with me. I love pumps and slip-ons but there are more times than I care to think of that I go up the stairs and my shoe is left behind. So understand Cinderella. If she had been a western kind of girl and kept her boots on, the whole glass slipper thing would have never happened.

Of course, the supposed earliest fairy tale version of Cinderella didn’t have a glass slipper at all. In Grimm’s version, it was a silk and silver slipper. In the Egyptian version, which is probably the oldest known recorded, the glass slipper is actually a rose gold gilded shoe with a leather bottom.

Glass for the slipper came about with the French version in the late 17th Century with Charles Perrault’s version. It seems the glass would be more difficult to keep on, but the different versions show there was no shortage of ways to keep that magical slipper off of Cinderella and in the prince’s hands.

Right now, a prince on a mighty steed would be nice, but I am holding out for my sub $50 sneakers!

~ Tara

Friday, May 4, 2012


I seem to be the kiss of death for institutions of higher education. Of course, I didn’t attend the more well known universities, such as Yale or Harvard. And lucky for those fine schools that I stayed here in Texas and attended smaller, less well known places.
I obtained my undergraduate degree, a Bachelor of Science in Home Economics, from Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. My specialization area was Foods and Nutrition and I earned a teaching certificate in this field. I later went on to earn a Master of Science degree in Education from Corpus Christi State University.
This may sound fine to you, but I happen to know that neither of these institutions exist anymore. I mean, what’s this all about?
Here in Texas we have the University of Texas with the Texas Longhorn mascot named Beevo. Attendees are so proud of their school, they sometimes refer to it as though it’s the only university on the planet. THE UNIVERSITY, they say. And they have their own hand sign to proudly display at sporting events. This sign is to raise your hand and extend your thumb and little finger while tucking the other fingers down, thus resembling the eponymous longhorn. Shouts of “Hook ‘em, Horns” can be heard and the hand symbol seen at sporting events and spontaneously elsewhere when UT fans merge. The burnt orange school color, while not a very flattering shade, can be found abundantly in the fine city of Austin, Texas. And when the University of Texas Longhorn Band comes raging onto the field (other bands march) and play The Eyes of Texas, I admit that I’m thrilled to the core.
Texas is also home to Texas A & M University. Another institution with proud and long-standing traditions. The Texas Aggies, as they are called, did not always admit women, although now the campus is abundantly populated by the fairer sex. A&M has  ”The Corps” and while I’m not quite sure what that is all about, I gather it is a para-military group that shave their heads and play soldier (I’m soooo gonna hear about this one)  The A&M mascot is a dog named Reveille which relates back to the militaristic beginnings. The Aggies have their own traditions and hand sign, which consists of a fist with the thumb extended in what would otherwise be considered a “thumbs up” sign, but the Aggies are fervent in yelling “Gig ‘em, Aggies!” while displaying this hand sign. Yeah, this sounds pretty crude when taken out of context, but the Aggies persist in “gigging” all over the place.  
Now what does all this have to do with me? Not too much at all. Southwest Texas State University did have sports teams. The Southwest Texas Bobcats were the football team and while this sounds okay, imagine the stands full of people making the Bobcat hand sign. This consists of making a scary, “I’m going to get you” claw hand and waving that from back to front overhead. There was no particular chant, but a few feeble, “Go Bobcats” could be heard. Southwest Texas did have a football team and basketball team and the students were supportive, but without the frenetic fervor of the two aforementioned institutions. Is it any wonder that Southwest Texas State University evaporated? Oh, there is still a university located in the beautiful hilly campus south and west of Austin, but the name is currently Texas State University…So my diploma is from a place that only exists in memory. <sigh!>
       Then to add insult to injury, I earned my MS from Corpus Christi State University and it promptly aligned with another university and changed the name to Texas A & I University at Corpus Christi…Most recently it has realigned with another institution. Now my former school is called Texas A & M Corpus Christi…Does this mean that I’m an Aggie by attrition? I’m sure the heads of the larger and more prestigious institutions are gratified that I didn’t enroll there. Can you imagine what Yale could be re-named? The Ivy Covered University at Yankeeville? Or Harvard might be Stuffy University at Stuffyier Place.  Oh, my! I’ve offended the elis and the boola-boola people now. Stick around. I’m pretty sure I will offend everyone eventually. <sigh!>