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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Writing Wednesday

The garden, the blackberries and the grapes are starting to wind down, so today I did some much needed cleaning up and organizing in my writing room.

Did I say writing room? I don't really have a writing room. I wish I did.
Years ago, we converted our one car garage into a family room. That is where I write.

My housework has really taken a back seat during these busy summer months - a very back seat.

Piles of books were in the floor (even after getting rid of lots of them at my yard sale).

Piles of papers were everywhere - handouts from the Writer's conference we had in June,  edited manuscripts with scribblings all over them, copies of the Children's Writer Newsletters and the Children's Book Insider Newsletters were found hiding here and there and printed submission guidelines were scattered about.

Piles of stuff filled the rocking chair seat.

After working all day. . .
The rocking chair is empty, books are removed from the floor in front of the Lazy Boy and I can put my feet up without knocking over a pile of books. The computer desk where my husband sits has been cleared of piles of papers.

I have filled folders and small ring binders titled Submissions, Works in Progress, Family History Story, Children's Writing Newsletters, Published Stories and Articles and Critiques. I already had these files and binders, I had just not kept up with putting the papers in them and I had forgot about having the folders.

I found stories and poems I was working on in my Works in Progress folder that I had forgotten I had written. Now I know exactly where they are and I can finish them.

It is a relief to have this done. The floor is vacuumed and we can walk without tripping over things and - I know where everything is.

But life goes on and tomorrow it is back to painting our storage building/workshop.

I offer a few words of advice.  Don't let your office get this messy!

Happy Writing!

 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Medicinal Plants - Plantain Salve update

Remember my post of two weeks ago about medicinal plants. I told about the medicinal qualities of plantain and started my batch of salve.

On Saturday, I emptied and strained my jar of torn leaves and oil. After letting the mixture strain for a while, I pushed it with a spoon and then took it in my hands and squeezed out the remaining liquid. I cut open 4 vitamin E capsules and emptied them into the mixture and poured it into small containers (with lids) and put them in the fridge.



After sitting in the fridge for a while, it solidified.


Looks pretty, doesn't it? 

It does have a funky smell, I think in my next batch I will put something in it to make it smell better.

On my first post about this, my cousin Carmen commented and told what it did for her. If you never saw her comment, you should go back and read the comment she left. It really did miraculous things for her brown recluse spider bite.

I had a doctor's visit last week. I showed him the results of using the salve. He was very impressed and said he was all for natural remedies. His assistant remembered what it looked like before and when she saw it completely gone, her eyes and mouth opened wide. She was amazed.


Other news around here - I have made 4 batches of grape jelly and around 12 quarts of grape juice. It is sooo good! I used my juicer extractor (I posted here about it last year, when I used it with berries) to get the juice from the grapes. It's the berries! I love it. There is no sediment left at all in the juice, which is great when you are using it as grape juice. I did use about 1/2 cup of sugar to each quart of juice. Delicious and good for you!

We are still picking peppers! The pepper bushes are so big, they look like small trees.


 
These are the world's hottest peppers. Ghost Peppers!
My son has saved seeds from them to replant next year.

We are enjoying fresh eggs! These came from my cousin, Carmen, as well. Aren't they pretty? I had an omelet this morning with peppers in it and fresh sliced tomatoes and a big spoon of my fresh grape jelly on the side.



And last, but not least  - you never know what you will see while riding around in the country in Jackson County visiting yard sales.



Oh, I almost forgot. Don't forget about my give a way! There is still time to enter. If you don't scrapbook, you could give the free code to a friend or family member who does. Plus, there are other things you can do with it. - like making calendars, printing gift tags etc. I am looking forward to making a personalized calendar with it for next year.



Friday, August 26, 2011

A Give-a-Way



I'm having a give a way, but it is not a book. It is for My Memories Suite Scrapbook software. It is a $40 value and a #1 rated scrapbook software.

You can make scrapbook layouts, photo books, cards, videos, calendars etc. with the 'digital scrapbooking software.' You can print out your project or share it digitally with family and friends. You can enhance your scrapbook with video, music, narration, and even the internet. Go here and it will tell you everything you can do with this great software. 

Click here to go over and check out some of their pages and tell me which ones you like. I like the easy calendar on page  3 and the classic red gift tags on page 4. 

I will randomly pick a winner from the comments. If you don't have a blog where I can get in touch with you, leave your email in your comment.

I have just starting playing around with the program and I am in the process of making pages to put in my family history book I am writing. Some of you crafty people (and not so crafty) could really go to town with this software! There are even instructional videos on You Tube. The possibilities are endless...Wedding Guest Books, family history pages, reunions, baby shower books, cookbooks, family calendars, etc.

Leave a comment and be in the running for this software. The winner will be given  a code, they can go to the site and put in the code at the checkout and will not be charged for anything. Announce it on your blog and get two entries in the drawing.

If you don't win and would like to purchase it, go to their site and put in this code STMMMS23290
at the checkout and receive a $10 discount off the purchase of the My Memories Suite Scrapbook software and a $10 cpn for the MyMemories.com store - $20 value. Anyone can use this code, just copy and paste the code at the checkout. Tell your friends if they are interested.

If you win, what would you like to use it for? I would love to hear your ideas.

I will announce the winner next week.

Good luck!





Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Writing Wednesday

This writing tip of the day was on my side bar yesterday:
Celebrate every writing success and never lose your sense of wonder about each opportunity.

We have writing successes each time we come up with an idea, each time we conquer writer's block and each time we click on  'publish post.'

There are writing opportunities everywhere. We just have to grab them. This is hard for me because I am always afraid of rejection.

Letters to the editor, blog posts, poetry journals, letters, magazine columns, newspaper articles, pamphlets, family histories, writing contests etc.

Since the invention of the personal computer, people don't write letters any more.
I have a collection of letters Charley wrote to me when he was in the Navy. I cherish them and sometimes take out the folded papers from the envelops and read them. E-mails are just not the same. Letters can be a window to the past. My dad kept all the letters Mom wrote to him when he was in the army. Reading them shows you what life was like in the 1940s.

I have written a column for children in Two-Lane Livin' Magazine for two years. It seems like it was just  yesterday when I emailed the editor with a sample of my writing and asked if she would consider me for a columnist.  I took the chance and was given the opportunity.


You never know if you will succeed unless you try. You never know if your story is good enough unless you submit. You never know if the words are inside you unless you sit down and write. You never know what doors will open unless you knock.

Be brave. Take chances. Grab opportunities.
Happy Writing



  





Monday, August 22, 2011

New Recipe




I recently found a recipe for a blackberry upside-down cake. It sounded good, so I baked one this morning.

Blackberry Upside-Down Cake

Topping:
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 cups fresh blackberries

HEAT oven to 350 degrees.
MELT butter in a 9 inch round cake pan.
STIR in brown sugar until blended.
ARRANGE blackberries in an even layer over the melted butter/brown sugar mixture.

CAKE:
1 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter at room temperature
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla

COMBINE flour and sugar in large bowl.
ADD egg, milk and butter
BEAT 2 minutes. Add lemon juice and vanilla.
BEAT 2 minutes. Pour over blackberries in pan, spreading evenly.
BAKE  50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool 5 minutes on a wire rack. Run knife around edge of pan to loosen. Cover with a cake plate and invert. Serve warm.


 
gather ingredients

spread berries on butter/brown sugar mixture
 
mix cake ingredients and pour over berries
 
after baking and cooling, invert on cake plate
(looks like I could have used a little less berries)
  Oh my, it was so good!

We ate a piece while it was still warm, and 
I think I might like it better than a cobbler.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Mama Says

One of my picture book manuscripts I have written is called Mama Says. Well, thinking of that story made me think of this post for today.

Mama always said. . .

"Drinking coffee will stunt your growth." (Even so, Mom always folded her light bread in half, dunked it in her coffee and gave me a bite when I was little. I guess that is why I am so short)

"Do not go barefoot until May 1st."

"Smoke always goes toward the pretty one."

"Carrots make your hair curly."

"White lines on your fingernails tell how many lies you've told."

"Eat all your supper - clean out all the bowls - and it will be a clear day tomorrow."

"Sing in bed at night and you will wake up crying."

"Play with fire and you will wet the bed."

"Swallow your chewing gum and it will clog you up."

"Swallow watermelon seeds and a watermelon will grow in your stomach."

"Don't watch until he is out of sight or he will be slow in coming back." (When I was dating Charley, I used to watch him until he was out of sight. Mom told me that and then I started to turn my head just before he was out of view. I'm not superstitious or anything, but I still do that when I'm watching someone leave.)

"Always wear clean underwear, you never know when you might be in a car wreck."

"If you smell cucumber, there's a copperhead near by." (We always listened to this advice when we went berry picking)

She said, "Let's tie your wedding ring on a string and see what sex your child is gonna be." (This never worked for me, the string said I was going to have girls and I had three boys)

And then there is the time my cousin said to me, "Sweet 16 and never been kissed - just slobbered on."
(I know this is from a cousin, but I just had to add it. Don't you just love cousins)

Some of these are a little crazy, but you know Mama usually did know best.

What did your mama always say?

By the way, be sure to stop by next week. I am having a Give a Way!


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Writing Wednesday - Painless Writing

 

This is a repeat (with a few changes) of a blog post I did in January of 2010

What is painless writing? What is painful writing?

Painless writing is when the words flow from your mind onto the paper and keyboard.

Painful writing
is when you pour your heart and soul into your work, only to get it rejected. Or worse yet, after months of waiting, not even receiving the courtesy of a reply.

Painless writing is the wonderful, encouraging and understanding writing friends you meet.

Painful writing is when family and friends just don't understand. They don't understand the work and time involved, they don't understand that writing for children isn't easy, they don't understand what an accomplishment it is to get published (no matter how small the publication) or they don't understand how hard it is to get your manuscript picked out of a huge slush pile of stories. They think if you send in a manuscript, it will automatically be picked for publication and it will be on the shelves in a few months.
Painless writing is writing for free, because you love to write.

Painful writing is writing for free, while spending your money for books on the craft, for conferences, for contests, for reams of paper and for writing classes... and spending your time which is also valuable ---- I have heard some people say that they will not write, edit, critique etc. for free, because their time is valuable and it would also put forth the idea that their work or service must not be very good if it is provided for free.  It is kind of like having a yard sale and people steer clear of the free box. They figure if the item is free then it isn't any good. What is your take on this idea that some people have?


What is the purpose of this article? It is to say that writers need to be tough and persevere the times of painful writing until their goals are met. I sometimes find this hard to do.

And also to show you a book I purchased at the WVUP Bookstore when we went there to buy my son's college books for next semester. It was only 9.99, so I bought it. They also had books titled Painless Grammar and Painless Vocabulary.

It is filled with writing challenges called Brain Ticklers, examples, tips and web site addresses for further information on topics in the book.

Of course, the most important thing of all is writing the story everyone is wanting to read, the story that hasn't been written yet and the story all the publishers are looking for. So, write down your list of goals and write, write, write!

What is your definition of painful or painless writing? Do you sometimes find it hard to persevere  through the hard times?






Monday, August 15, 2011

Nature's Secrets - Medicinal Plants

Nature holds many secrets. Our ancestors learned some of its secrets.
They learned how medicinal  plants could heal.

I was taught to use the aloe vera  thick gel for burns.

I was told by my mom to use catnip tea for colic. It worked wonders with my second baby. After drinking from a bottle filled with warm catnip tea - sweetened with a little Karo syrup, he went right to sleep.


Here is a site that tells you about 18 of nature's most powerful medicinal plants. It even lists blackberries as one!

Recently I learned of the healing properties of plantain.
It is easily found growing along country roads.



Around the middle of June, my cousin Carmen, gave me a small jar of plantain salve she had made. Among other things, she said it was good for wrinkles.

Well, after a little research on the internet, I found out that it is also good for bites and infections and other such stuff. If you don't have the salve, you can crush up the plantain into a poultice and put it on the bite or sting and place a band aid around it. 

I have had a growth on me for a few years that the doctor said was hereditary. It worried me because it was dark, raised and about the size of a dime. They wouldn't cut it off and told me not to worry about it. Well, of course, I worried about it.

I thought - why not? I started putting the plantain salve on it at night. It took a couple of months, but the growth is now gone!

It has made a believer out of me!

So, I decided to make some of my own salve. There are different ways to make it, but this is how I am making mine.

On my morning walk on Saturday, I took a bag and collected the leaves. I picked enough to fill a pint jar.
I rinsed them off and dried them thoroughly. You need to make sure they are good and dry.

 

Tear the leaves into pieces and stuff them tightly in the jar.


I filled the jar with coconut oil, completely covering the leaves.



Now the next thing you have to do is be patient. Wait for 2 weeks, rotating or rolling the jar occasionally. Strain the contents and put into small jars. (They say you can put a little vitamin E oil in it to help preserve it.) Store in the refrigerator.

This is the jar my cousin gave me.

There are different ways to make it. You can google plantain salve and a lot of different sites will come up telling you its benefits and how to make it.

In a few weeks I will give you an update on my magical salve.
I love it, it has made a believer out of me.







Friday, August 12, 2011

Thrift Store Find

I bought this pretty aluminum cake carrier at the thrift store yesterday. I just love it. It is made my MIRRO and I am not sure what decade it is from - maybe the 1970's. Anyone know?



Now, all I need is a cake to put in it.

Let's see - maybe a carrot cake with cream cheese topping, a German chocolate cake with homemade icing on it (my husband's favorite), Grandma's applesauce stack cake, pineapple upside down cake or a delicious yellow cake with chocolate icing.

Can you tell I am trying to lose weight? I like to talk about food when I am trying to lose weight.

What is your favorite cake?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Writing Wednesday

Hi everyone, Wednesday is here again. Summer is flying by. 

First off, I have found a few places you might like to visit. And, you do not have to leave your nice air conditioned house to go to them!

A few Wednesday's ago I interviewed author, Pam Hanson. Everyone can visit here and like her author page on Facebook. Her latest book, Faith, Fireworks and Fir, is available at Amazon as an e-book.

There is a neat writing contest on Cactus Country blog site. Go check it out and see if you would be interested in entering it.

And, I just found out about Writeoncon. They are having a free online writer's conference. You might want to go check out their site.

Here is another good place to go. As a guest, you can copy and paste up to three passages of your manuscript in every 24 hour period for a free critique. I've been visiting there and it is helping me weed out some of my mistakes in my manuscript.

I love using onomatopoeia [on-uh-mat-uh-pee-uh] words in my writing. I'm a children's writer, so I might get to have fun with these words a little more often than writers of other genres. But everyone uses these words in their writing. They are a class of words that have developed from the mimicking of sounds in our environment.

We have animal or machine noises, body function noises, fast motion noises,  musical noises, cooking or eating noises and fighting noises.You might call them the special effects of our stories. Use them sparingly and they can perk up your writing.


Edgar Allen Poe used onomatopoeia in his poem, The Raven.

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
" 'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door;
Only this, and nothing more."

Here is another example:

"He saw nothing and heard nothing but he could feel his heart pounding and then he heard the clack on stone and the leaping, dropping clicks of a small rock falling. " (Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls)

Here is a great onomatopoeia site, it even has a Hangman Game you can play.

Enjoy yourself. Have fun with writing.
 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Easy Cucumber Pickles and this and that

Hi everyone! Sorry I haven't been blogging and commenting so much lately. I even missed Writing Wednesday. Summer has kept me too busy. I am picking blackberries every other day - yesterday I was in the patch from 7:30 in the morning until noon. We had a yard sale and I still have not figured out why sitting around all day having a yard sale wears you out as much as it does. I have been trying to keep up with our garden, which really is not very hard to do, even the cucumbers are drying up. And speaking of cucumbers. . . below is an easy recipe I found in our family cookbook. I do not like dill pickles and this recipe is not too sweet and it is not too sour.

EASY CUCUMBERS PICKLES

7 cups sliced cucumbers (do not peel) 
1/2 cup chopped peppers
1 cup sliced onions
1 cup vinegar
2 cups sugar
1 t celery seed
3T salt

Put in large pan. Cover with water. Add 3 T of salt. Let stand for 1 hour.


 
Mix 2 cups sugar, 1 cup vinegar and 1t celery seed. Drain water from cucumbers and put in 2 quart jars and pour mixture over them, let stand for 3 days before eating. Will keep for weeks.

Okay, that is how the recipe read. I changed it a little. 
I used 8 cups of sliced cucumbers and I did not put in the peppers or onions. I heated up the sugar and vinegar mixture until it dissolved. I had to make more of the sugar and vinegar mixture to fill up the 2 quart jars (that may be because I did not add the peppers and onions). I doubled the mixture and it made too much, so I think 3 cups of sugar and 1 1/2 cups of vinegar would make enough.

I really liked the flavor. My husband said it tasted like old timey pickles.

 

It has been raining this morning. I sure hope it keeps up. We are so dry here!



I saw this and just had to take a picture. Do any of you farmers know what this is? It looked like it had the initials HH on it.
 

 Hope everyone has a nice weekend and I promise to get caught up with my blogging and comments.

By the way, it has already stopped raining.

Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness has never danced in the rain.  ~Author Unknown

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Picking Blackberries 101

It is summer! How do I know it is summer? It is hot, hot, hot and the blackberries are ripe!

I love blackberries. I picked blackberries with Mom, Aunt Gracie, my cousin Rodney and Grandma when I was a kid. Back then we picked blackberries on Grandma's land. We traveled up an old rutted out coal bank road. We picked berries in the ditches, on the hillsides, near the pond and anywhere else we found them. Berries had the habit of growing in the hardest to get to places. We carried coffee cans and water buckets to put our berries in. We put on our rubber boots, long pants and long sleeved shirts. They protected us from the briers and snakes!

And Grandma used her hanky a lot to wipe the sweat off of her face.

That was then and this is now.

Now I pick blackberries in my yard. I still wear my long pants and long sleeved shirt, even when it is 95 degrees outside. And sometimes I wish I had one of Grandma's hankies, too.

To be a blackberry picker you have to be in pretty good shape. You can not have bad knees, bad hips or a bad back. You have to be able to stoop, stretch and crawl.

You have to be able to get down on you knees to find the berries hiding near the ground.


You have to be able to crawl under the vines to get to the berries underneath.



You shouldn't be afraid of critters such as, worms, spiders, tics and snakes. If so, then stay in the house where it is cool. I think this little inch worm is kinda cute, though.





You have to have good eyes to find the hidden berries. They like to hide behind leaves.



You need to put a little table in the shade to set your tray of berries on. If you sit your berries on the ground, they will attract ants. And when you bring them inside and place them on your table, the ants will crawl out and start walking around.




It is a hot and tiresome job. But, the rewards are very delicious!

And, I almost forgot. No matter how ripe that berry looks, if it doesn't want to come off - don't pick it! No matter how tempted you are. I have found that the berry knows best. It knows when it is ready to be picked. My mother in law used to tell me that you could tell by how the berry felt if it was ready to be picked or not. I thought she was crazy, but she was right. I now also have the touch. But, I must confess, I sometimes pick when I shouldn't and I am usually sorry. And, that berry ends up tossed on the ground after I get a closer look at it.



I bet by now you've guessed what I did today. Have you picked any berries lately?
Go here and check out a couple of my blackberry recipes.