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Life & Chaos – Why I’ve Been Absent from Social Media Lately

Posted by on Jun 23, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

It all began with a goodbye kiss to my husband before he walked out the door to catch a flight. (Okay, I’ll be honest. It was an extremely early flight, and he told me he loved me before leaving our bedroom to meet his Uber driver in the dark. I mumbled something in return and frowned, because I only had two hours left before my alarm went off. In my defense, he wasn’t going on a routine business trip or to see his family. He was going to sail around the Caribbean for ten days with a bunch of guys to strengthen his boating skills.)

Like a skilled corporate wife, I shrugged at the thought of my husband leaving for ten days. I’ve been doing this for years. What could go wrong? And with him in the Caribbean, I figured I could milk that for a while.

Oh, but life can be funny. I mean, it wasn’t funny at the time, but now I can roll my eyes and smile at the thought of those ten days. Every. Single. Day. Something chaotic happened during every single one of those days or nights. Ever woke in the middle of the night from the SMELL of a sick dog that decided to eat an outside plant? Then my son got a messy stomach virus. Oh, and let’s not forget the teenagers. One kept missing the bus, while the one I drove to school each morning thought she didn’t have to be on time with it being the end of the year. Without going into the details, I’ll add three 911 calls made throughout the week as well. By the time my husband made it home from the Caribbean, I felt like death, and I honestly think he feared the look in my eyes.

After that, things got crazy with the end of school activities and packing for our Memorial Day vacation. We chose a quaint little town on the Gulf Coast to see if we would like to move there next summer. We’ve been considering a change for a while now, and this town has great schools and a place for a future sailboat my husband wants to buy.

Well, we visited the town, fell in love with it, and put a bid on a house. Just like that! Talk about spontaneous. The next week consisted of unpacking, decluttering our home, packing, and dealing with realtors to put our house on the market. A few days after the house went on the market, we had company visiting, and then I flew out to Las Vegas with my bestie for a week at the World Tea Expo. Along with writing, I’m passionate about tea, and I plan to start sharing my favorites with others.

And now we’re at today. I have an early morning flight out with the family tomorrow, and I haven’t even started packing. I still have to pick up my dog/house sitter from out of town, and the house needs to be spotless before we walk out the door. (Oh, the joys of having a house on the market.)

As you can tell, I just haven’t had much time for social media or anything else lately. However, this move should give me much more time, and I’m looking forward to getting my life back for writing and tea tastings. Unexpected Beginning is top priority! After the move, I plan to get it off my desk to start Unexpected Legends, the sixth and last book in the series.

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Smoothies, Teas & Infused Waters – Using Fresh Herbs

Posted by on May 13, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Warm weather is here, and the gardens are bursting with flavor! Although I don’t have a green thumb and kill most of the plants I try to grow, herbs seem easy for me. Right now my rosemary bush is thriving and could use a good trimming, and I can see some peppermint leaves in their large barrel. Lemon balm, chamomile, parsley, basil–there’s too many to name!

What do I do with all these herbs? I dry some for teas and aromatherapy uses–which make great gifts–and I freeze some. However, I try to use a lot of them while they’re fresh. That means I throw them in summer salads, smoothies, hot teas, iced teas, cakes, breads, and infused waters. Like the essential oils they produce, fresh herbs have powerful benefits when eaten, and you can easily add them to smoothies, salads, and infused waters without noticing them.

The other night I made this year’s first batch of infused water, and the children are drinking it up. How else could I get them to eat rosemary, cucumber, ginger, and lemon without complaining? I also upgraded my smoothie maker and got a NutriBullet RX a few days ago, and I’m loving it. Yesterday I threw in some fresh greens, almonds, frozen fruits, and some goat milk I found on sale into one of the large pictures for lunch, and I put the leftovers in the fridge for later. All three of my children poured some for their after school snack, and I just smiled, knowing I can sneak all kinds of healthy food into those smoothies.

I’ll have to do a post on the NutriBullet RX later. With a powerful motor, it can do smoothies and drinks, and the large pictures make it easy to keep extra in the fridge. It can even make hot soups. That’s a big change from my old Ninja.

If you don’t think you can garden or even like gardening, I recommend you give certain herbs a try. Many of them are easy to grow, and they come back every year. You can even enjoy some of them year round. You just plant them and let nature do the rest. Just like the essential oils most everyone is raving about, the plants offer health benefits. Just make sure you do a little research on the herbs you plan to grow so that you know how much attention they need. Some will take over your yard if you don’t plant them in containers. That’s where large barrel planters come in handy. If you don’t have much room, you can always use smaller pots. I’m just greedy and love my barrels when it comes to certain herbs.

If you’re new to infused water, I suggest you get some ideas from Pinterest, but don’t be afraid to change the recipes. The drink I made last night originally called for mint, but since my mint isn’t ready, I used rosemary. I also love adding grated ginger to most of my waters. It has a lot of health benefits, and it’s the best way I like to ingest it. I keep the roots in my freezer and cut off a piece as needed.

Certain ingredients need to be organic. They spray a lot of chemicals on lemons, and they’re on the dirty list. Everything I’ve read says to go organic with lemons, and I use a lot of them. I start each day with a glass of lemon water.

I prepare all my infused drinks at night so the vitamins and minerals have enough time to get into the water. Once I drink all the water on the following day, I usually add more grated ginger and fill it back up for another night in the fridge. That way I get two days using the ingredients.

If you have any questions or would even like to share a recipe, be sure to leave a comment below. The drink in the picture above contains one lemon, half of a large cucumber, grated ginger, and rosemary sprigs.

                

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The Problem with Farmers’ Markets

Posted by on May 10, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Spring is here, and the weather has been beautiful in the Atlanta area. Last month I wrote a blog post about my first visit of the year to some of the local farmers’ markets with my husband and young son. The following week my two teenage daughters surprised us with their presence to another local market, and we made it a family morning. (I still can’t believe they woke up, got dressed, and walked out the door on a Saturday morning to visit a farmers’ market. I didn’t even force them!)

With perfect weather, my daughters actually let me hold their hands in public, and we walked around tasting samples and filling our bag with fresh goodies. One of my daughters loves cheese, and it’s been causing her some problems. When I spotted a table with goat cheese samples, I urged her and my son to try them with me. I don’t even like cream cheese or cranberries, yet when I took a bite of that cranberry goat cheese on a cracker, I was hooked!

I don’t mean that in a small way either. It’s become an addiction. I HAVE to have my serving of cranberry goat cheese and crackers as a snack every morning. I crave the goat cheese. It calls me into the kitchen–even when I’m not hungry!

Out of curiosity, I purchased some cranberry cinnamon goat cheese I found at the grocery store, but it tasted nothing like the one I bought at the farmers’ market. When I ran out of the two containers I bought from the local farmer, I knew I had to go back for more.

You may be wondering how this is a bad thing. I mean, it’s great that I found something healthier than regular cheese, and I’m also supporting a local farmer. Right? What about the fact that I’ve never tasted anything this yummy, and I now depend on this one supplier for my fix? What if I move one day? What if the farmer stops showing up at the market? I mean, this isn’t a branded item. I can’t get this anywhere else!

So, take this as a warning. Casually strolling around a farmers’ market and munching on artisan samples can be hazardous. One day you’re carefree and got your eating under control. Then you’re suddenly addicted to a food item you never imagined you would even like, and you’re at the mercy of a local farmer to get your daily fix. I’m not going to be able to visit the market this weekend, and I’m already worried about not having this goat cheese next week. This is a problem!

How about you? Leave me a comment below or on the social media post. I’d love to hear about it!

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Review of the Amazon Echo Dot

Posted by on May 3, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

I got my husband three Amazon Echo Dots last Christmas, and now that we’ve had them for four months, I’m ready to share our experience. Why three of them? Well, they’re small, and they’re cheap. They usually sell for $49.99, but they often go on sale for $39.99. With three of them, we have one in our bedroom, his office, and our living room/kitchen area. Some people actually carry one around in their purse, since they can be used with any wi-fi. From what I’ve learned online, the only difference between the more expensive Echo and the cheaper Echo Dot is the sound quality. However, you can easily plug the Dot into a speaker. You can spend $179.99 on the Echo for a better speaker, or you can buy a bunch of Echo Dots for the same price and use whatever speakers you already own. That way you can have access to the Echo in more than one room of your home.

I basically needed a gift for Christmas and decided on the Echo Dots after watching a few videos. My husband knew nothing about them when he opened his present, and he didn’t even set them up until a few weeks later, after he did a little research on his own.

That leads us to the month of January, with a new gadget in our open kitchen and living area. With three children, things quickly got annoying, and I learned that voice command is both a blessing and a curse. My nine-year-old son continuously played It’s Raining Tacos and Pen Pineapple Apple Pen. Every time he walked into the room he said, “Alexa, play…” It got to the point I was singing It’s Raining Tacos in my head continuously. And I didn’t like it!

It seems my thirteen-year-old daughter has a wild sense of music style, and she shared it each time she entered the room. My fifteen-year-old daughter just played loud and hard music to annoy me, even though she doesn’t even like it. My husband, who hardly ever listens to music, often played jazz in the background. I like jazz, but we have a different taste in that genre. After a week of listening to his music while in bed at night, I started telling Alexa to play something else. Then I would hear, “It’s my gift. You bought it for me.” Things got pretty interesting each night in our bedroom. I will admit to randomly saying, “Alexa, play whale sounds,” while we were trying to fall asleep. I also learned that my husband likes Marvin Gaye. It’s amazing what happens when you get a voice activated gadget in your room.

Oh, and then there was the night my children tortured me with Barney and Irish heavy metal folk songs. My husband was on a business trip, and later that night, the Dot kept coming on to play a Barney song while I was in bed trying to read. I thought my children had broken it with all the songs they had tortured me with, although that Dot was the one in the living room. However, my husband called, and I learned he figured out how to turn the Dot on while in a hotel room far away. He saw that the children had been playing Barney, so he kept turning it back to that. He would wait about ten minutes before doing it, so it took me a while to get bothered.

Luckily, the newness wore off within a month, and everyone stopped giving Alexa a command every time they entered the kitchen. Since that was the worst of it, we got off easy. It seems one little girl made the news when she told Alexa to buy a doll house and a large box of expensive cookies, costing her parents quite a lot of money. I don’t know if my husband set the Echo up to make purchases from Amazon, but I’m thinking he would use a password if he did.

For me, I love that I can give a voice command to time my tea or cooking while in the kitchen, and I can add to our grocery list when I notice we’re low on something. I also like that I can ask about the weather and set a morning alarm without any hassles. It’s also helped with some of the children’s homework when we’re struggling to find an answer. Overall, it makes life a bit easier, but it still has a long way to go before becoming awesome. The majority of the questions we ask can’t be answered, and I’m considering buying Google Play just to see if that’s better. It’s good for simple things for now, but I predict its capabilities will continue to grow. The future is open to great possibilities.

Oh, and although some people buy the Dot to create a smart home, we haven’t bothered with any of that. That requires extra purchases, and we don’t live in a small apartment. To upgrade our devices, it would cost quite a bit, and we’re not ready just yet.

Have any Alexa stories you want to share? Leave them in the comments below. I’d love to hear 🙂

               

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The Farmers’ Markets are Open!

Posted by on Apr 25, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

It’s that time of year again. The outdoor markets are opening, and the farmers are starting to bring in fresh produce. Although I live near a few year-round markets, I love this season the most. Living outside of Atlanta, I’m blessed to be surrounded by many farmers’ markets, and last Saturday my husband wooed me by taking me and our youngest son to two of them. (Yes, I consider it wooing, as I don’t think he really enjoys them.)

I bought a gallon of strawberries, and we ate them in less than 24 hours. Freshly picked–they tasted SO yummy! Maybe this weekend we’ll save some for a strawberry cheesecake.

Then there were the variety of fresh greens. I immediately washed them and ran them through my salad spinner. (Moisture is the death of salads.) I put them in a large, glass bowl and sprinkled some fresh wheat grass over it. To keep everything crisp, I put a folded paper towel on top and sealed it with Cling Wrap. I set it in the fridge and boiled some eggs. For lunch, my son and I enjoyed our delicious salads with strawberries for dessert. I smiled when he looked up from his plate and said, “Who knew fresh tasted so much better?” He had just complained about the chia seeds I sprinkled on his salad, but after taking a bite, all was forgiven.

It was a beautiful, sunny day, and with all those yummy goodies, my husband decided to grill some salmon to go with the corn and zucchini. I made a batch of biscuits last night for this morning’s breakfast, and we enjoyed the local honey with them. It’s now Tuesday, and I sent the last of the salad to school with my son today. Luckily, there’s a Thursday market at a local church, and I look forward to bringing home more fresh produce.

Oh, and I just have to share the exciting news! Okay, I know most of you don’t live near me, and this won’t be exciting for you. It’s a “me moment,” and I just need to express my happiness. The town I live in actually did a bit of rezoning so that a piece of land in the middle of a residential area could be turned into a farming zone. It’s actually on the same road as my tiny subdivision, which means I could easily walk to it. It’s still in the beginning stages, but next month they expect to have the little store built. Do you see what this means? I live in a residential area, but I will soon be able to purchase freshly picked yummies without any hassles. It really doesn’t get any more convenient than that! They’ll even have eggs from happy chickens!

They have volunteer opportunities, but I don’t have much time for that at the moment. Maybe next year I can get involved. I have a few garden plots around my house, but I’m not really doing anything with them this year. I may plant some herbs for cooking and teas, but I don’t see me trying to grow a lot of vegetables any time soon. I’m too far behind with everything else.

What’s your favorite thing about farmers’ markets? I’ve lived in eight states–rural and suburban–and every market has its own uniqueness. Although I miss a lot about living in the country and personally knowing the farmers, I highly enjoy the variety of offerings in the Atlanta area markets. Last weekend I tried goat yogurt for the first time, and I plan to start adding it to my smoothies instead of kefer. My son actually loved it straight!

If you’ve never thought much about your local farmers’ market, I hope you’ll give it a try. My son was right about the taste of freshly picked produce. There’s a different taste. It’s fresh and much healthier. You should give it a try.

 

 

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Is Iams Dog Food Killing Dogs?

Posted by on Apr 19, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

As some of you already know, our little Gigi passed last summer from natural age issues, and I waited until about two months before bringing home two more dogs. I’ll type a separate post later on how that came about, but it happened while the family was away. I was kind of supposed to only get one dog, yet somehow brought home two. Oops–I guess my husband should have responded sooner to my texts 🙂

This post is mainly about Maisy, a miniature schnauzer who was around two years old last summer. She was covered in dirt and had a large scab on her back when I got her. Terrified and needing a major haircut, I just couldn’t let her go back home with the man selling her. After I got her, I drove an hour away and bought Maggie, a spoiled, black cocker spaniel, who was about nine months old at the time.

Both the sellers told me they used Iams Naturals, so when I took the dogs to Petsmart that evening, I purchased a bag of Iams’ highest grade food called Iams Naturistics, grain free. I started Maisy on the new bag of food, while I fed Maggie from the bag her seller gave me. It was the next level down in Iams Naturistics, and it was for puppies.

I quickly learned Maisy had some health concerns. Not only did she suffer from extreme anxiety, but she also had worms and needed spaying. We easily cleared the worms and scheduled a date for the spaying. However, we had to postpone the surgery when she developed extreme (I do mean extreme) diarrhea.

At first, I thought her stomach problems resulted from me going on a family vacation for a week. My older niece lived with us at the time, and she cared for the dogs while I was away. She kept the house quiet, and she knew my routine–perfect for an anxious dog.

Shortly after I returned home, Maisy’s stomach couldn’t handle her food, and the vet put her on medication as I began to feed her chicken and rice. During this time, I searched online for the best dog food to help with a sensitive stomach, and I chose Taste of the Wild. While waiting for the order to come in, I put Maisy back on the bag of Iams, and I began to feed it to Maggie since she ran out of her bag of food.

That’s when I realized it wasn’t just Maisy’s anxiety. It was the food. Maggie’s stools began to get runny and turned the same brown color (matching mucous and all). Maisy’s stomach had settled by then, but the troubles began again when she started eating the Iams. After a Google search, I soon learned MANY people had the same issues with Iams. I read many people’s reviews describing the same exact color and mucous poops on Consumer Reports–not only from regular dog owners, but breeders as well! Dogs have died because of Iams!

I’m not saying their food kills every dog, or even makes them sick. However, it’s clear to me that their brand does have a negative–and even fatal–effect on some dogs. With my own experience, I saw it in both dogs. Thankfully, Chewy’s order came in quickly, and I started the girls on their new food. Things immediately cleared up, and I’m happy to say they’ve been great ever since.

As a dog walker and pooper scooper, I can honestly say that Taste of the Wild gives a healthy, firm texture every time. (I can’t believe I’m typing this, but the consistency does make things easier.) I know what to expect, and there’s no surprises from the food.

I also found another negative on Iams while doing my research, and even if the brand didn’t make dogs sick, I’d advise against using it after seeing the video on how they treat their testing dogs. I’m not going to link that video, because I watched another video of a high qualified vet explaining what was truly being shown by the undercover PETA agent. She explained it in a more positive way, and she said Iams is trying to do better for their testing animals.

My advice is that you should thoroughly research dog food before making a decision. Don’t just go into a store and randomly select what you’ll be feeding your dog. A great online resource is Dog Food Advisor. That’s a place to start. I also read blogs and a lot of reviews before making my decision. Although that sounds like a lot of work, I don’t even have to go to the store to buy their food anymore. It’s automatically shipped, and it’s not something I have to deal with now that I’ve found the right brand.

I hope this helps someone. Stay tuned for a post on how I got my two little ones when I write about the joys of a rescue dog. Every little thing is a big achievement with an abused dog.

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