Sometimes, It’s About the Littlest Things

Hi all,

I’m running a little late with posting, this week. That’s what happens when school is closed for spring break. I start cleaning and lose sight of almost everything else. (This coming from the girl who always gave her mother grief for using vacation time to clean. Help! Does this mean I’m becoming my mother???)

Here’s the latest I tried from Jessica Smith TV. What I’m liking about her routines—and the ballet barre workout I referred to in my last post—is feeling supercharged when I’m done, with a willingness to keep going. The energy seems to have translated to the tennis court, too! I ran down so many shots and didn’t feel tired at all after 90 minutes out there—double what I could do last fall.  (Oh, the hours I spent on the courts in my mid-late 20s. Still feeling that kind of joy when I’m swinging a racquet.)

A couple of days ago, online friend and fellow blogger Carrie Rubin brought up an interesting question about twinges of regret about life choices we might have made. Read her post here. (Psst! Carrie’s posts are always worth the read.)

Anyway, she got me thinking. Of course, my thoughts meandered in other directions—and I didn’t want to be a copy-cat. I landed on seemingly little things that wind up being life-changing.

Now, I’m not talking insanely dramatic life situations. For me, a YouTube video and a piece of tape wound up impacting the day-to-day.

This connects to the fitness videos I mentioned these past two posts. Around this time last year, I decided to give zumba a whirl. I’d taken a class; wasn’t thrilled with the instructor. Being someone who has a hard time following steps, I figured I could start and pause a video as needed and work at my own pace.

Long story short, I felt something not move correctly in my left hip. No pain. At least not until a month or so later, when I couldn’t tell which came first, the pain in the hip or that in the knee. I was also an avid user of rocker-bottom sneakers (i.e., Shape-Ups)—they never, ever bothered me prior. (I’ve given them up but still miss them. It’s okay.)

By June last year, I had enough of a problem to interfere with my lifestyle. That included walking. (I was afraid to attempt tennis.) Sitting certain ways and getting up off the floor after working with my school kids had become a major issue. I broke down and went to see an orthopedist. He offered a knee brace, ibuprofen and physical therapy.

Immediately called a former co-worker. She’s not only the most amazing physical therapist I know, she’s become my “sister-from-another-mother.” She told me the brace  would align my patella (a.k.a kneecap) exactly the way athletic taping would, minus the bulk. Went to her house that same night. Came home taped and taught how to do it myself. She also showed me a few key exercises, but I’d be lying if I told you those were the magic.

A piece of athletic tape applied once or twice a week since then has altered my day-to-day for the best. Within a week, most of the pain subsided. (I’d say I was 95% improved, and with minimal medicine too.) I even took my chances on the tennis court right around then, and came back happier than I’d been in months. The barre workout appears to have handled the rest of the discomfort. My hip is feeling 99% improved since TWO days after starting that. Go figure.

So, reader-friends, I turn over the blog-mike to you. What seemingly little choice or change did you make that significantly impacted your day-to-day, or your life on the bigger scale, if that’s appropriate?

Best wishes for a Happy Passover and Happy Easter to all those who celebrate!

And special thanks to Carrie for inspiring me this week.  :)

Cheers,

Joanna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wilson, Our Real-Life Neighbor

Hi all,

Hope you all enjoyed a less rainy and gloomy weekend than those of us on the east coast did, but in the end, it’s all good, right?

Just a little shout-out here for a couple of YouTube workouts I’ve been thoroughly enjoying as of two weeks ago. Have a friend who swears by her ballet barre workouts. Being a non-gym kind of girl, and in definite need of a shake-up to my exercise and walking routine, I looked barre workouts up.

Came across two I really liked:

Jessica Smith’s Ballet Barre Workout (no barre really necessary, unless balance is a major issue) and BarreConcept’s Ultimate 20 Minute Barre Exercise Workout. (The latter instructor has an English accent and a voice that takes a bit of getting used to, but she’s in my head now, lol. Plus, the workout is short and even a bit addictive. Besides, the second woman from the left is me, right?) I am most pleased with having been able to do most of both workouts the first time, and that none of the moves are overly complex. Yep. Even I can follow them.  PLEASE NOTE: Don’t forget to consult your physician prior to beginning any workouts, especially if you have health concerns of any kind.

Other than that—and having nothing in particular to share this week—figured I’d tell you about our family’s real-life Wilson. (This would be the friend that dramatically called across the lawn when hubby had me believing he’d bought that Harley. That story posted two weeks ago. If you like, read it here.)

Wilson’s legal name is so not Wilson. Long story short, he and his family moved in next door when I was pregnant with my younger son. We had a pool then, and a wooden stockade privacy fence.

Yep, every day, our new neighbor peeked over the fence, much like Tim-the-Tool-Man’s neighbor Wilson did in the TV family-comedy series, Home Improvement. I started calling him Wilson. The name also served us all well, as it created a distinction between hubby and the guy next door, who just happen to share the same name.

Wilson and his family moved at least ten years ago. He and hubby remain close buds.

The name stuck. Most people who meet (or have met) Wilson through us have no idea that is NOT his first or last name, lol. And my boys? To this day, they call him Mr. Wilson (not to be confused, however, with the Mr. Wilson of Dennis the Menace fame).

So y’all confused enough? Have you ever named someone in your life after a TV character? If you were to do so, who would you pick?

Okay, we be done for today. Please share if you feel inclined to do so. Anybody try his/her hand at the cookie bar recipe I posted last week? If so, how did they turn out?

Be well and have a wonderful week,

Joanna

 

Sweetening Things Up A Bit Today!

Hi all,

So psyched about the Dancing with the Stars—yep, it’s back.  Season 18 is underway; congrats and welcome to Erin Andrews as co-host! The girl is rockin’ it from the get-go. Some folks just have it goin’ on. (Okay, so I is a junkie when it comes to this show. It’s feel-good and fun.)

Last week’s post was prompted by the daily prompt at WordPress. This week’s write-up ties into another one. Since these prompts bring music to mind, here’s the link to a video that bears the prompt’s title—remember this one? Some songs will always make you move.

Do you have a clue what the title of the WordPress prompt is yet?

Rather than write about my favorite sweet—seriously, how do I narrow THAT down?  Guess I’ll go with what came to mind first: a room-temperature square of Trader Joe’s dark chocolate.

Then I thought about the nicest compliment I got just the weekend prior.

I have very kind neighbors. The Vietnamese family on one side has sent the best egg wraps on several occasions since they moved in a little over a year ago. Filled with shrimp and Asian veggies, these are oh-so-yum and always a welcome surprise of a treat. (Somehow, the wraps come when I have no idea what I’m making for dinner. Go figure.)

My neighbor across the street has kept us supplied with ‘salt’ during the winter storms the east coast dealt us, this past stormier-than-usual winter.

I said thank you to both families with a tray of oatmeal-raisin cookie bars I make from scratch. Honestly, it’s one of my easy favorite recipes; love these things. They’re lightly sweet and can be crumbled into milk as breakfast.

One of the neighbors caught me as I was getting in the car and asked how much I charge for my cookies! How nice was that? He compared them to two bakeries I’d heard of, too. He also caught me a bit off guard, as I have never asked for any payment on something I very much enjoy doing. (And I get the—questionable—benefit of having fresh cookie dough to chomp on regularly, right?) Hmm. Maybe I can move into another career direction…

Anyway, figured I’d share the recipe. This is off the bag of brown sugar sold at Aldi’s, the market where we do most our family’s food shopping. Owned by Trader Joe’s, they are the best kept secret for feeding a small family and saving big $$$ on the grocery bill. And I can recognize most of the ‘name brands’ they contract with from the packaging. They also bring in weekly specials of food, household items, etc, most of which are excellent quality.

Oatmeal cookie aldi recipe

The original recipe, right off the bag.

oatmeal cookie bars

The finished product :)

So here is my version of the recipe:

Ingredients:

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

½ cup butter (=1 stick), softened, not melted (I use ONLY salted butter. Margarine works but will give a different texture)

1 tsp vanilla extract (or to taste)

1 large egg

2 cups oatmeal (I always use regular, although the recipe calls for quick cooking)

1 cup whole wheat white flour (all purpose flour is fine, or you can come up with a mix of the two—your choice how much of each)

1 tsp of baking soda

1 cup of raisins (chocolate chips work too, should you prefer those or just in the mood for something different)

Equipment:

13 x 9 cake pan (foil, glass or metal all work)

cooking spray (or butter or margarine, to grease the pan)

waxed paper (optional, but SO worth it when spreading the dough)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350º F. (My oven has a Speedbake option that simulates a convection oven. I keep it OFF–I feel that it makes the finished product dry).

In a bowl (or large measuring cup) mix together all your dry ingredients. Set aside.

In a separate, larger bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add vanilla and egg and beat until lightened in color and fluffy. (An electric mixer is very helpful to make this step go quickly.)

vintage mixer

My momma’s vintage GE mixer. She loaned it to me ages ago and wound up buying another one for her. This baby is still kickin’ batter-dough’s butt. She might have gotten it by collecting Green Stamps. (Yes, I just dated myself. Oh well, guess if I’m not my age, I am not.) 

Hand-stir in the dry mixture, about 1/3 of it at a time, mixing until the wet and dry ingredients are fully incorporated. (Try not to over-mix. It could make the finished product tough. Also, this tends to be a thick dough and requires some strength to mix. For this step, you might consider employing someone with strong arms—whenever hubby or one of my boys is around, I do. If I’m the one doing it, I figure it will only benefit my forehand in the end! ;) )

Stir in the raisins or chocolate chips. (Heck, add both if you like. I’m thinking a li’l bit of coconut would add to the yum-value here. BTW, hubby wondered if you can just add the raisins or chips to the dry ingredients and do everything in one step. You probably can, though most cookie dough recipes typically add them separately.)

Spread dough into your pan. This dough is pretty thick. (I spray a pan-sized piece of waxed paper with cooking spray and use that to press the dough all the way to the corners of the pan. Makes this step ridiculously easier.)

Bake for about 18 minutes then check for doneness. Edges should be browned. Bake about 5 minutes longer if you prefer crumbly (vs. chewy) cookie bars.

Remove from oven and let cool about 10 minutes. (I then cover the pan with foil or a flat cookie sheet—makes for treats that are a tad more moist and chewier.)

Cut into bars when cool. (A pizza cutter works well here.)

Done!

I know, I know. Seems like a lot of steps, but once you know them this is a quick, go-to recipe you can make in a pinch. All things considered, it’s pretty wholesome too. Crumble a bar or two into oatmeal, add milk and eat cold. I promise it works! Cut them up and arrange in a pretty basket or baking dish for an elegant display.

Do you have a favorite recipe? I’m always open. Feel free to post a link to it here, or post at your place and let me know. If you feel so inclined, please share. (And don’t forget to dance a little to Def Leppard.)

Have a great week,

Joanna

Krista’s ‘Brilliant Disguise’ Prompted Me in Multiple Ways

Happy St. Patrick’s Day,  blogger buds!

Hope the weekend treated you well and that all celebrations were what you wanted them to be. I kept busy with a family birthday party; compiling related blog articles into booklets to go along with a workshop in-the-works; communicating with Debbie at The Cover Collection–see my rave about it here–and getting this post together (while working from an iPad and a laptop—I never wanted that first desktop, lol).

I’m also preparing my share of a St. Patty’s Day school breakfast: a cheese, pepperoni and cracker tray, oatmeal-raisin-cranberry-almond bars and a coconut cake with awesome cream-cheese butter frosting. (Yum.)

The above are just a few of the reasons I want to retire from school. Who has time to work?

leprechaun-card1

Clip art courtesy of clipartsandcrafts.com

Today’s post was inspired by a WordPress prompt. I subscribe to them and every now and again like the topic enough to pull together a response. I also believe it’s a great way to connect with other bloggers and possibly grow one’s follower base. (How it works: Comments are always closed on prompts. Pingbacks are enabled; if you link to the prompt post on your blog, your post will appear in the list below the prompt.)

This one was entitled Brilliant Disguise. Krista suggested writing about a time someone really pulled the wool over your eyes. (And just b/c I’m a distracted disaster my brain immediately started playing Bruce Springsteen’s title track to the CD by the same name—do we still call them CDs in this download-driven world?—and my favorite off that collection: All That Heaven Will Allow. If you’ve never heard that song, you HAVE to. Then make sure you come back, lol.)

Here’s my story: We were on vacation with another family at one of my favorite places on the planet: East Hill Farm in New Hampshire. (Fans of the movie Dirty Dancing will relate; this place reminded me of Kellerman’s.) We’d been out earlier in the day and passed a Harley-Davidson dealership.

Hubby was into motorcycles then. (Just a hair of background: we’ve always promised to discuss spending upward of a certain amount of $$ before doing so.)

Long story short, hubby went out with his friend for a while that afternoon, and came back in time for ‘cocktails’ on the lawn. This man, who could never-ever get a fib past me—I can tell from the way his lips look against his teeth whenever he tries; no I can’t explain it—told me he had a surprise and that he’d just purchased a brand new Harley.

Since money-rich is something we are so not, lol, I probably stared at this mouth and teeth looking for the fib. Maybe I was so floored at his ‘news’ I missed it. His buddy sat next to him, nodding and confirming what hubby said. Finally convinced hubby was telling the truth, and beyond hurt that he’d go there, I ran off, fighting back tears, as a romance writer would say.

I can still see his buddy calling across that giant lawn, and hearing his voice almost in slow motion: “Joanna! He didn’t do it!”

Hubby followed, dug me out of our room and told me the truth. (Might have been the first and only time he called me ‘sweetheart’ too. I usually go by ‘Babe’ or ‘Joey.’ When he calls me ‘Joanna’ it’s not necessarily for a good reason.)

So that’s what Brilliant Disguise at WordPress prompted me to write. How about you? BTW, comments are closed on these prompts but pingbacks enable you to connect with other bloggers responses. So, if you choose to share your story, just post a link to your blog in the comments as well, and maybe even connect to WordPress.

You never know where that could lead you. I’m still not convinced, but my follower base supposedly increased by at least 400 after I connected with one a little while back. Next week, I’ll share some links to some great posts I came across this week, simply to keep this one from getting any longer.

Have a great day,

Joanna

The Cover Collection–Stop By for Inspiration!

Hi all! Hope you fared a relaxing and/or productive weekend and got to do something special. I was thrilled to have found a nearby tennis court clear of snow, ice and puddles, where I played a couple of sets. Of course I lost (that’s just the way of it). Definitely had a rusty day (haven’t been out there since the fall), but I do find happiness in the spring-like weather swinging away at a little green ball.

Rowsy   Rowsy kittens

These photos are for Tess. On the left is my Rowsy, who lived at least 22 years. Under the tabby gray was evidence of calico mix. It certainly showed in her kitties. 

Special welcome to Robbie! She found me via a pingback at NYTBSA Bob Mayer’s blog (How cool is THAT?!) to a guest-post I wrote a while back for author Babette James, when indie publishing was starting to really make its mark.

Promise to work really hard to keep the rest of this quick. (The other writing-related/workshop projects are lined up and waiting patiently. And hubby is looking forward to the egg-wrap I normally make for him on the weekends. )

A couple of posts ago I talked about some inspiring articles at author Joe Bunting’s blog, The Write Practice. Recently, guest blogger, author Carlos Cooper, talked about how perusing pre-made cover art for ideas and inspiration led him to buying a cover that caught his interest and inspired a book to go with it. Since I’ve done well so far with applying some of what I’ve read at Joe’s excellent stop-on-the-web for writers, I figured I’d go for it.

Like Carlos, I did a search. Landed at UK-based The Cover Collection and immediately fell in love with a cover under the Romance tab. Lined up to pay the ridiculously reasonable costs—via PayPal—for ebook and CreateSpace covers for the follow up to my debut novel. BTW, the latter is a print-book front-only option TCC offers to help authors save $$. Older Son is savvy enough to do spine and back cover work.

Virtually met and began interacting with Debbie. She has been utterly WONDERFUL helping me customize the stunning cover I bought. (I promise the images appear to breathe.) She is very generous with her time, open to suggestions and somehow, totally “gets” what moves me visually. One of the versions she made for the sequel—based on my requests—resulted in big-time pay dirt: perfect theme/story-related cover art for my debut, No Matter Why!

So, two lovely covers-in-the-works later, I am taking steps in the direction I’ve wanted to go all along. No cover reveals today; we’re still working on them. (Yes, very patient Debbie is kind enough to put up with me. ;).

So I suppose this is short enough a post for me. (Please feel welcome to differ and say so, lol. No offense taken, pinky swear!) I know, there were a lot of links here. (That’s what happens when you drop in at Jami Gold’s virtual-web stop.) For those of you daring enough to check out each one and somehow wind up back here—you far more focused than I.

Hope this has been as inspiring for you as for me. Thanks for indulging me.

Have a great week,

Joanna

Crappy Voice(?) and Angel(s)

Happy first Monday of March, people! Please tell me spring is a-comin’–I am D.O.N.E. with snow and the cold.

So how cool is this li’l cutie hubby found on Facebook? I certainly hope he’s for real! (Video is 1:34–pinky swear it will make your day!)

So last Wednesday was blog-post fodder, everyone. A little of everything: kid drama and humor; a could-be problematic incident for me with an angel (?) or heavy-duty coincidence stepping in.

Day started off okay. Managed to focus and work on a report despite much preferring to chat with coworkers.

Drama showed with one of my third graders who has next-to no impulse control when he’s with one particular classmate. Tried seeing what I’d do when he pushed my buttons. Forced me to  put on my “discipline” hat  (i.e., make an active choice to not make excuses for his behavior b/c of his special needs).  I followed through: “Third warning. Back to class and tell your teacher you lost a point.” (This is big for them in class, lol. I felt so mean too. When you’ve had kids on your roster since they were three, you start to love them much the way you love your own.)

So we were practicing “French”, as his classmate refers to cursive handwriting. (Beats the kids who want to write in “curses.” Yes, many of my guys have delays and/or difficulty with speech, especially articulation. You learn the lingo after a while.) This little cutie of Costa-Rican born parents somehow inherited a mild accent that his parents don’t have. He is not, however, lacking in command of English or connecting verbal dots.

One of the girls was having a hard time with forming the letters. I took a peek at her paper and started to comment on where she was having a problem. “Okay, Mrs. Joanna. Please don’t yell at me.”

Huh???

“Since when does Mrs. Joanna yell?” (I rarely raise my voice.)

Li’l Costa Rican accent pipes in: “Mrs. Joanna doesn’t yell. She’s just using her crappy voice.”

He. Did. Not. Say. That–Oh! Li’l Accent Boy was referring to my typical line when they’re making me nuts, “Why do I need to use my crabby voice?”

What can I say? My students get to know me too.

And the day progressed until I had to leave one school to go to another. Dragged three bags, my binder and a travel coffee mug to the car. Had to do a bit of shuffling to get to the keys, dump everything in and take off.

Got to second school with five minutes to spare before session time. Grabbed the bag I’d prepacked for the 5th graders and reached for the binder with ALL my goals, objectives and progress logs.

Binder is not there.

NOOOOO! I did not leave it on the trunk and drive off!

Yanked out cell.  Called first school. Begged secretary to leave her warm office space and go to cold parking lot to look for blue binder. (Of course, the stuff inside is legal documentation as of this month, not to mention kids’ first and last names on EVERY page. And so goes HIPPA.)

Secretary came up empty. I entered second school and immediately wailed to art teacher, who is kind enough to share his room every week. (Yep. I have no real home in ANY school I work in. ‘Nuff said ‘bout that. Among the reasons I had so much stuff getting from door to car of first school.)

“Oh man,” art teacher says. “Know what’s really funny? I was wondering how you can always be so positive.”

“I’m positive I left my binder on the trunk and drove off.”

Suffered through that session—I was a tad flustered and preoccupied—and noticed a missed call from an unfamiliar, but local, landline.

Hope kicked in and I dialed my voicemail. Yay! Secretary found my binder about three blocks away, corner down in the snow! Papers dirty and wet, but cover not blown open and NOTHING missing! (IDK how it survived a left, a right and another left before finally losing contact with the car.)

Relief set in. I am not anxious by nature but this rattled me a bit, mostly b/c of the confidentiality thing.

Took at least two hours before normal calm set in. Then I realized had the other secretary picked up my first call (when I noticed my binder missing), the one who found it would have driven by the blue book stuck in the snow and ice and never thought twice. Instead she said she drove past and then, “OMG, blue!” registered. (She lives nearby and goes home for lunch daily.)

Everyone can talk coincidence as much as they want. My angel(s) stepped it up this past Wednesday. I did not complain about having to break down almost the entire binder and cover three beds with papers for them to dry. Made sure to lay them out in alphabetical order, as they are organized usually, so that re-organizing them would take less time.

Once the book was back together, I got to write the blasted notes. I suppose I was grateful I had everything I needed to do so, and will be able to turn them in, as is expected, within the next few days.

And we’re square with HIPPA (for today, anyway).

Thanks for indulging me.

This one’s kind of open. Talk to the topic or just talk. Sorry I went a little long, but at least I got something to write about in the end. (There’s that annoying positive outlook again… ;))

Have a great week,

Joanna

Happy Tuesday, everyone,

And a happy birthday shout-out to my daughter-from-another-mother. Older Son’s girlfriend turned the big 1-7 yesterday. (This post was supposed to go live on Monday, but I forgot to click the SCHEDULE button after I set the date.)  She’s been around four years already, something I still can’t believe sometimes. Luckily, she’s a very nice young lady and there is no real drama between them.

I’m always  a bit sad watching an Olympic flame go down. Being a lover of athletic ability in so many forms—especially since God did not put superstar status coordination into this writer girl—I  so enjoy living vicariously watching the grace and power of those who are. (I get to the tennis courts whenever I can. Luckily, I can hit a few good flat shots–I so can’t do any spin on the ball–and let’s not talk serve.)

I will NOT  miss listening to the rather biased coverage and talk involving American-Russian rivalry re: medal counts, hockey games, etc. That’s just not me, and the Olympics is a place where the world supposedly comes together, right? (Just sayin’…)

Sochiolympicflame

Image credit: Flickr via Wikimedia Commons (Pretty sure I did this properly. Feel free to let me know in the comments or privately if I didn’t. Thnx!)

Having my life back from the TV is always nice (barring Law & Order SVU re-runs—those suck me in almost every time; Modern Family is starting to get me too and I just walked away from auditions for The Voice). Indian Wells, the ‘fifth slam’ of tennis starts March 6th…Dancing with the Stars is about four weeks away… There goes Monday night…again.

Back on track: I haven’t written about writing for a while, nor do I plan to now. What???

I did, however, come across a couple of great posts from The Write Practice, to whose posts I subscribe. I recently moved from lurker to commenter/participant and am finding a very supportive community. (Writers can be like that, cheering each other on, helping each other out, paying it forward…you know.)

In lieu of musings by me, I figured I’d share an exercise prompted by this post, Let Me Be Your Muse. Writer/blogger Joy Collado of the Phillipines suggests I do nothing but write in response to what my character(s) have to say about their feelings relative to me and getting their stories into some kind of existence. Let me tell you, some of mine are pretty dang frustrated, lol. Here is a very short excerpt of the fruits of that effort:

These are one of my POV character’s thoughts. She’s a tad annoyed waiting for me to get it together, to find a direction for her story, and to get things right between her and her hubby.

“So you’re letting me be the muse, huh? It’s about time you stopped trying to figure out my story and started committing to putting down something concrete about it.”

From there my character pretty much outlined her story and gave me a great framework to draw upon. My next step is to do the same with the other POV characters. I’m hoping I don’t choke myself (again!) with all the ideas that come from this kind of brainstorming. That’s what happens: I get overwhelmed with all the info and can’t seem to find a start point to make functional use of it.

Becca Puglisi‘s guest postPurging Your Writing Fear spoke to me too. From that I was inspired to jot down two key affirmations. Those are on my nightstand. I’m seriously considering fancying them up a bit and framing them, so that they’re that much more visible to me on the day to day.

Here is one of them: I am can and will make _____ and _____’s story into a viable suspense/romantic novel. (It’s that suspense part messing with me. New territory.)

So, what are your thoughts on these topics? Have you tried Joy’s technique or written down affirmations/goals the way Becca suggests? Do you feel it’s been helpful? If so, how and/or why?

Thanks and have a great day!

Joanna