Monday, March 8, 2010

Monday Meanderings . . .


Did I watch the big O?


For awhile. The glam of the gowns, the terrific yumminess of men in tux, watching to see if anyone falls -- those heels are killers, the dazzling drip of diamonds (thanks Kate Winslet for making my eyes pop out), but the speeches do get redundant for me, even understanding that the Shinning Star of the moment needs to thank all those folks who've made them famous. Bottom line: I, like most of America, don't recognize the names of the 'thanked' so the name dropping is useless. Now, if the Shinning Star were to give me a hint as to why the 'thanked' are mentioned, it might be an interesting speech.

Oh, wait, Sandra Bullock did that.
And I did love her speech.


Happy Monday to all.
Drop by the porch later. I'll have some grammar tips to add.
Until then,
~Sandra

Care about who was at the parties? Visit A-list.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Fine Living magazine cocktail quiz

On a long car trip, you're listening to:
1)Pop hits on the radio
2)'80s hair metal
3)Spanish language tapes
4)Smooth singers like Frank Sinatra
**I'm a Pop Hits sorta gal.

On Saturday night, you can be found:
1)Pushing my way to the front of the crowd at a rock show
2)Getting down in the center of the dance floor at a club
3)At the opera house watching La Boehme
4)Enjoying classic movies on a blanket in the park.
**Well, Saturday nights are not normally night this exciting for me. HOWEVER, I'd be the enjoying classic movies, WITH hubby, on a blanket in the park, if we could combat the mosquitoes and keep each other awake.

Your favorite dish is:
1)Chocolate mousse with whipped cream on top
2)A spicy bowl of chili
3)Homemade macaroni and cheese
4)Pad Thai noodles
**I cheated on this one because I've already revealed my favorite sin in white chocolate, Macadamia nut cookies, but if a gal must decide then I'll go with homemade mac and cheese.

If you could be a movie star, you would be:
1)Salma Hayek
2)Jennifer Aniston
3)James Dean
4)Fred Astaire
**Definitely, Fred Astaire. Hey, don't anyone tell my hubby that I'm channeling a man. Really I want to channel his dancing shoes. I would love to be able to move with rhythm and style.

Your dream vacation would be:
1)Visiting Cape Cod for a tour of famous lighthouses
2)Relaxing on the deck on an all-inclusive Caribbean cruise
3)Hopping on a motorcycle for a cross-country ride
4)Traveling to Japan to experience
**Okay, this one is easy. Ever seen my house? Some have and it's drenched in lighthouses. I love them, and taking a tour to visit lighthouses would be completly up my alley.

The clothing item you can't live without is:
1)A pair of yellow kitten heels
2)A leather bomber jacket
3)The perfect merino wool sweater
4)A flowing silk scarf
**Where's sweat pants on this list? All right, maybe they didn't intend writers or moms or women who want to be comfortable to take this test. Whatever . . . I'll go way with the flowing silk scarf. Goes better with my Fred Astaire impersonation. It would certainly look great in the lighthouse pictures.

What did you dress up as last Halloween?
1)A pirate
2)A cowgirl (or cowboy)
3)A belly dancer
4)A flapper (or gangster)
**This would have to be none of the above. However, I did go as a Fallen Angel (all in black and no halo) once, which would put me somewhere between belly dancer and flapper.

Your dream house is:
1)A mansion in Hollywood Hills
2)An apartment in the East Village
3)A low-slung midcentury-modern home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright
4)An adobe casa in the Southwest
**Definitely the adobe casa in the Southwest.

If you won the lottery, you would:
1)Buy a custom-designed wardrobe
2)Head up the fan club for your favorite band
3)Fill your garage with vintage cars
4)Spend a year backpacking across Europe
**Oh, let's be real. How about pay for my kids' college tuition? Or re-carpet my house? This one is so far beyond my realm of reality, I just pushed a button.

Of these inventions, which do you find the most exciting?
1)Hair extensions
2)Frequent flier miles
3)Crossword puzzles
4)Guitar Hero
**There must be something twisted in this personality quiz. Of all the 21st century inventions, these are the choices? In the end, I had to go with Crossword puzzles. Too much of a word smith not to appreciate that choice.

So what's my favorite cocktail?
Vodka Gimlet

The phrase "don't change a good thing" was practically invented for you. You love the classics, like movies, cars and, of course, cocktails. Our Vodka Gimlet is made with high-quality vodka and lime juice, shaken in a cocktail shaker just like they've always been.

Well, I've never had a Vodka Gimlet, but I do like Gray Goose vodka, so I'll try this out next time.

Want to take the quiz on your own?

Head over to Fine Living for a bit of entertainment. Do share your results.

Have a lovely Saturday and drop by my back porch again.
Until then,
~Sandra

Monday, February 22, 2010

Credit Card laws . . .

Not my normal subject matter, I know, however, these changes are ones that I've been watching for a bit. Hubby did a lot in the credit restoration industry years back . . .even helped him formulate and design an 80-page self-help manual on the subject, so anytime the credit industry is being overhauled, I'm all about staying on page.

A few of the CC changes went into effect last August. Most, however, hit the percentage points today.

Feel free to stop by any of the major news sources and you'll see this matter covered for the next few days. If, however, you'd like an overview, this is what I found interesting.


Limited interest rate hikes -- meaning, the CC companies cannot jack your rates. Well, almost. CC companies can increase your interest rate if: (1) you're late on payment, (2) you have a variable rate card, (3) or it's the end of the promotional period you signed up for. GOOD NEWS -- CC companies must give 45 days notice before rate hikes on existing balances, and interest rates can only increase on new transactions after the first year.

Limited universal default -- meaning, in the past CC companies could adjust your interest rate using credit data from any # of sources. GOOD NEWS -- they cannot pull obscure credit data to raise your interest rates. Existing balances cannot be adjusted just because the phone company, the insurance company, the electric company submits damaging information against your credit file. Word of caution: with 45 days notice the CC company can raise your rates using this info. But, they have to tell you what they're going to do and give you the 45 days, which means you can shop around for another credit source and send their slab of plastic back in teeny, tiny pieces.

Limited credit to those under 21 -- well, giving CCs away like candy to those struggling with their first taste of financial freedom or to make college ends meet has never seemed like a very good idea to me. Someone in Washington final got on the same page. GOOD NEWS -- Now, those under 21, must have a co-signer or must show MEANS to make the CC payments.

MY FAVORITE!

Time to pay the bill and pay it on time -- CC companies must give 21 days to pay a bill. GOOD NEWS -- No more sending out bills where the due dates have been moved forward and expect consumers to juggle finances to get the bill paid on an earlier date. Believe me, CC companies won't ever move your due date back on the calendar. Also, CC companies cannot make payments due before 5pm on the DUE DATE. Word of caution: I couldn't find whose 5pm the law references. My guess, but do check this out, it will be based on wherever the corporate office is located for your CC company.

There are a number of other CC issues that the new bill regulates. Again, go to your favorite news source for the best, up-to-date information. However, I did find this great site for new CC fees that the CC companies are putting into effect. Many are already hidden in the small print of your new CC information. Check out: creditcards.com

This was interesting as well: 10 worst mistakes on credit cards

Sorry, if this post seems a bit droll, but hey, giving the CC sharks more money than they deserve is cause for revolution in my financial book.


On the back porch, it's been cloudy and cool, and, wow, has the wind blown. I have my rose bush under cover again -- yep, there's snow in the forecast once more. Frankly, not expecting much this time. A dusting, they claim, but it's certainly cold enough to snow.
Do drop by again.
Until then,
~Sandra

Friday, February 19, 2010

lars and the real girl



Okay, I've got to admit I thought this movie just looked silly. And I don't mean silly in a good way. Oops, bad of me because this, fellow movie fans, is a great film.

In a few weeks, loads of North Texas Romance Writers will gather for the NT Two Step, with guest speaker Michael Hague (screen-writer). Honestly, I don't know what all great stuff he's going to teach us, but I can't wait. I do know that he will be dissecting the film 'lars and the real girl' during our Sunday morning workshop. To that end, I finally broke down and watched a movie that from the snippets I'd seen appeared too 'silly' for words.

Well, it maybe seem that 120 minutes of a man who totes around a mannequin is silly, but news flash to all us disbelievers, this is a poignant story of loss and redeemation, of a town's deep and abiding love for one of its residents, and the journey from wishful reality to the-real-deal.

I cried for the last twenty minutes. Now, who's silly?

What was the last movie you watched that surprised you? Good or bad?
And do tell your take of 'lars and the real girl'

Barbequed on the back porch tonight. In the 50s and that's warm enough for me. Best part? Nary a bug in sight. Ah, I'll miss this treat in June and July. Also, I didn't have to sweat while BBQing and my wine stayed chilled. How sweet it is?
Drop by the porch again.
Until then
~Sandra

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Inspiration . . . what inspires you?

Do you need to fill up the well? Jolt that creative side of your muse? What are the things that make your soul sing with joy? What inspires you? Makes you smile when the world is dark and gloomy?
For me . . .
Family!


My dad's 80th birthday party -- and my son getting a royal ribbing for being the red-haired grandson.
My dad.

Christmas is more fun in a cowboy hat.
Vacations really inspire me.

Dogs are family, too!
Friends!


Critique partners -- The Flip-Flop Sisters
Success!

The first book cover.
My daughter's college ring.
My son building his own super-sized, mega computer.

Great Scenery!






The Vitamin String Quartet.

Great Music!


What else?


White chocolate, Macadamin Nut cookies. A tall, frosty glass of . . . orange juice. (Gotcha!) My favorite restaurant (Bob's Chop & Steak House). Spring sunrises. Walks with hubby. The perfect sentence.

What inspires you? Do share.
Drop by the porch again, anytime.
Until then,
~Sandra

Monday, February 15, 2010

Xue SHEN Hongbo ZHAO Cup of China 2009 SP

Where you watching last night? Figure skating? The first pair of Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao? Then you missed a treat.

The You Tube video is the same routine, however, as the Olympics closely guards their videos for release, this one is of the Chinese pair during the 2009 Cup of China.

If you'll watch through the end of the video, there is a Russian (I'm assuming -- as this sounds like Russian to me) commentator who reviews the routine. Don't worry about the words. Simply watch the slow motion of the couple.

For all of us who write, the expression of absolute trust on her face and complete confidence on his face is what we dream of existing between our protagonists. Watch the beginning -- the grasp of his hand around her fragile wrist -- firm, secure -- keep watching and in a few moments, he grasp again, but then with the slightest brush of her fingers, he releases. When he lifts her, spinning across the ice, she balances on his two thin blades, the palm of his hand, and his strength, yet not for one instant do we, the viewers, believe he doesn't hold her securely and safely.

I suppose this especially struck a chord with me considering it happened on Valentine's Day . . . that most outrageous of suppositions that love needs to be celebrated on ONE DAY! Watch that video again. The love between this couple is captured in every move between them, their expressions, and the absolute certainty they place in each other. Real love isn't celebrated on a SINGLE day, any ONE day, but EVERY day.

I'm really routing for this couple. I don't care about their nationality, or religion, or even that Olympic Gold is the one skating dream, which has eluded their grasp. Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao represent to me the pinnacle of a true couple . . . they are a pair, each whole on their own, but so much stronger, so much sweeter because the existence of the other.

The back porch is visible again. Snow in Texas is like good sippin' whiskey: comes down smooth and then doesn't linger long enough to leave an after taste.
However, it was lovely while it lasted.

Until then
~Sandra

Friday, February 12, 2010

Snow Day X 2

Ah, Beauty, your name is snow -- especially when I won't need to shovel because by tomorrow the temps will raise to 50s and all will be gone! But for now . . . Winter Wonderland in Texas.












My son's unscientific attempt to measure the snowfall. Okay, the ruler was a good idea, but perhaps next time he'll choose one that the numbers are VISIBLE! Nonetheless, the pictures are eloquent to illustrate the amount of snowfall received in the Lone Star State.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Snow Day





Nightfall in the snow!
8 o'clock at night and still the flakes are falling.



I'm not sure this bush will ever be the same.


Not sure what she's digging for. Maybe, it's all the times the squirrels were busy in her yard. She just wanted to try it out.


Snow . . . snow . . . everywhere.


45 minutes out of the garage and already hubby's car is turning white.


This picture is for my daughter. The green van was her set of high school wheels. The old car looks pretty good under a drenching of white.


Too wild . . . snow in Texas is a dusting, but this, 5inches and counting.


Snow Day in Texas . . . who would have believed snow starting at 7am and still going at 8pm?

My dog loves this stuff. Not quite sure what the white cold flakes are, but, boy, oh, boy, are they fun.
Run, doggie, run!



Monday, February 8, 2010

Monday Morning Muses

So, who watched the Superbowl? Okay, I watched about an hour of it. Nope, not the end, but the first hour. Watched with hubby for awhile, but I'm not a football-enthusiast -- even though I live with two -- I can take it in small doses, then I'm done. By this point in the season, I'm done. So, hooray for the Saints, and I'm sad for the Colts -- my daughter is a huge fan.

To all those who have kept the loops alive with Macillian/Amazon updates -- thanks. I always love a great publishing scoop and this one has definitely been big news.

Did you miss the controversy?


Go to: ABC Video

or

Sun Times report

or

CBS news

I just read a recent update from Macmillian to their agents and authors . . . very nice, nice between the two lions on the Savannah, according to the letter. Bottom line: apparently they've worked toward a resolution and all things Macmillian should be back up and running on Amazon.

Onto something . . . well, lighter!
Giving Up Wine
I was walking down the street when I was accosted by a particularly dirty and shabby-looking homeless woman who asked me for a couple of dollars for dinner.

I took out my wallet, got out twenty dollars
and asked, 'If I give you this money, will you buy wine with it instead of dinner?'

'No, I had to stop drinking years ago', the homeless woman told me..

'Will you use it to go shopping instead of buying food?' I asked.

'No, I don't waste time shopping,'the homeless woman said. 'I need to spend all my time trying to stay alive.'

'Will you spend this on a beauty salon instead of food?' I asked.

'Are you NUTS!' replied the homeless woman. I haven't had my hair done in 20 years!'

'Well, I said, 'I'm not going to give you the money.. Instead, I'm going to take you out for dinner with my husband and me tonight.'

The homeless Woman was shocked. 'Won't your husband be furious with you for doing that? I know I'm dirty, and I probably smell pretty disgusting.'

I said, 'That's okay. It's important for him to see what a woman looks like after she has given up shopping, hair appointments, and wine.'



Made you laugh! Thanks for my friend, Bob, who sends me 'stuff' to keep me smiling even when I'm gritting my teeth.

Now, for that whole health craze I'm on . . .
Watch out for corn syrup, especially the High Fructose Corn Syrup. Maybe you're thinking, I don't indulge in all those sweet treats, so no worries.
Ummm . . . not quite true.
Flip your ketchup bottle over and read the label.
Go on. I'll wait.
Find it? Read the label? Notice one of the first ingredients?
Yep, High Fructose Corn Syrup.
BTW: it won't matter what brand of ketchup is in your cabinet or frig, unless it's Organic, they all have it. At least, all the major brands I've found in Texas.
Now, try your salad dressing.
I mean, even those spritzer brands.
Yep, High Fructose Corn Syrup is tucked in there as well.
Have you seen the commercial where the gal is eating a Popsicle and offers one to her beau? He declines because of High Fructose Corn Syrup and what 'people' say about it. Princess Popsicle ask for specifics on HFCS dangers. Beau can't provide any and that's the end of the commercial. By implication we (the viewers) are suppose to believe that because Beau can't come up with a reason not to eat HFCS then there must not be one.

Ask the nutritionist. Any nutritionist. They know the HFCS dangers.
Biggest down-side: your body doesn't know how to get rid of it. One of those sugars that Mother Nature never intended in the digestive tract. What does the body do with sugars it can't process? STORES THEM! Oops, past the lips and straight to the hips.
Why is it tucked inside all types of foods? Because it's the cheapest sugar to process and add. Simple as that.

Hope everyone has a great Monday. It's a bit rainy on the back porch. Well, actually, it's a lot rainy. But not to complain. I've seen the snow drifts up north. Here's wishing for a quick turn towards spring and a fast thaw.
Do drop by again.
Until then,
~Sandra

Monday, February 1, 2010

New habits for 2010 . . .

Remember, I told you I had ideas for my blog this year, different things than I've tried in the past . . . well, here's taking the first one out for a spin.

Hubby is on this major, 'How do we eat healthier kick?'. A couple of years ago, we switched loads of stuff OUT of our diet: excess sugars -- as in all white sugars; sodas (well, he and the kids did. I still have my Dr. Pepper sin.); white breads to wheat breads, regular crackers to wheat-only crackers; changed the salad dressings and yogurts -- not to LOW FAT -- but we took out the ones with all high sugars in them; hamburger meat is gone to be replaced by turkey only; more baked and grilled chicken; canned veggies out and fresh or flash-frozen veggies in; margarine OUT, completely unless it's in a recipe for baking and usually the item is one I'm carrying to a party, not keeping for home consumption, butter IN -- yep, it's the real deal in our house, small amounts, but it's the real deal.

Okay, there were other changes, but from this list it's easy to see our eating habits changed.

What else changed?

Waist-lines!

Hubby's most of all. DARN it! Of course, all research show men lose more inches compared to women, and hubby did. Over 5 inches. That's pretty impressive, isn't it?

Those results are hard to argue with, so I didn't bother. I simply ate better.


Now, hubby's on a new kick. Michael Geary - a Certified Nutrition Specialist, Certified Personal Trainer. This guy has an unbelievable program. More importantly, it's step-by-step.

Wait! I'm not promoting this program. No one's paying me for my opinion, or my writing skills. I'm simply saying, hubby started following the program and he's losing more weight.

It is one of those eating adventures that require the 4 - 5 meals a day, so for some this is definitely a down-side. Hubby drives a truck at night and we've had to be inventive in order to get his meal program in place, but it's working. It also means, creative thought has to be put into meal planning. For many folks, the thought of planning 4 - 5 meals a day is too daunting to undertake. Gotta tell you, we cheat. I use the same meal plans over and over. We already know the calorie count -- yes, we did have to figure those out -- put them on a spread sheet, and then we just combine things together.

Perhaps, you're asking, What is the purpose of this blog?

I recently found Micheal Geary's "Top 55 Lean-Body Foods to Build Muscle and Lose Body Fat"

Okay, how cool is that? I can share, as long as I give credit, which I just did. Check out the things you can add to make your 2010 healthier.

". . . start with the fridge. Each week, I try to make sure I'm loaded up with lots of varieties of fresh vegetables. During the growing season, I only get local produce, but obviously in winter, I have to resort to the produce at the grocery store. Most of the time, I make sure I have plenty of vegetables like onions, zucchini, spinach, fresh mushrooms, red peppers, broccoli, etc. to use in my morning eggs. I also like to dice up some lean chicken or turkey sausage into the eggs, along with some swiss, jack, or goat cheeses (preferably raw grass-fed cheeses when I can find them).

By the way I'm talking about whole eggs, NOT egg whites. Always remember that the yolk is the most nutritious and nutrient dense part of the egg, so only eating egg whites is like throwing away the best part... and no, it's NOT bad for you because of the cholesterol... eggs actually raise your GOOD cholesterol. Try to get free range organic eggs for the best quality."

That's different, isn't it?
I thought I had to eat egg whites ONLY, if I had a hope of keeping weight control. I don't like egg whites. Nope, too mild. If I wanted to eat scrambled card-board, I cook it up. Not, that I'm an egg nut, but I've never met a hard-boiled egg in a salad I didn't love.

Okay, what else does he list?


•Chopped walnuts, pecans, almonds - delicious and great sources of healthy fats.
•Cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, and yogurt - I like to mix cottage or ricotta cheese and yogurt together with chopped nuts and berries for a great mid-morning or mid-afternoon meal.
•Whole flax seeds or chia seeds - I grind these in a mini coffee grinder and add to yogurt or salads. Always grind them fresh because the omega-3 polyunsaturated fats are highly unstable and prone to oxidation, creating high levels of free radicals in pre-ground flax.
•Whole eggs - one of natures richest sources of nutrients (and remember, they increase your GOOD cholesterol so stop fearing them).
•Salsa - I try to get creative and try some of the exotic varieties of salsas.
•Avocados - love them...plus a great source of healthy fats, fiber, and other nutrients. Try adding them to wraps, salads, or sandwiches.
•Butter - don't believe the naysayers; butter adds great flavor to anything and can be part of a healthy diet (just keep the quantity small because it is calorie dense...and NEVER use margarine, unless you want to assure yourself a heart attack).
•Nut butters - Plain old peanut butter has gotten a little old for me, so I get creative and mix together almond butter with sesame seed butter, or even cashew butter with macadamia butter...delicious and unbeatable nutrition!
•Leaf lettuce and spinach along with shredded carrots - for salads with dinner.
•Home-made salad dressing - using balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and Udo's Choice oil blend. This is much better than store bought salad dressing which mostly use highly refined soybean oil (full of inflammation-causing free radicals).
•Whole grain wraps and whole grain bread (look for wraps and bread with at least 3-4 grams of fiber per 20 grams of total carbs).
•Rice bran and wheat germ - these may sound way too healthy for some, but they actually add a nice little nutty, crunchy taste to yogurt or smoothies, or can be added when baking muffins or breads to add nutrients and fiber.

If you want to see the whole article go: "Top 55 Lean-Body Foods to Build Muscle and Lose Body Fat"

Michael Geary makes a great point, in which he says, 'if you don't want to eat junk, don't have it in your house.

I have a friend, who totally owns the Great Body Award, and she swears by this truth. When she craves ice cream, she goes and gets a scoop, but never has the whole gallon in her house. When she is caving for her favorite cookie, then she'll get the box, give into the sin and eat the whole thing in a day or two. Then she's done. Craving feed, and she goes back to eating healthy. She'll be quick to proclaim, she doesn't diet. She makes good food choices.

Okay, I like good food choices. That's a mantra I can live with on a daily basis.

Here's hoping your 2010 has started off wonderful and healthy.
We're ready for a little warmer weather to fire up the BBQ. Grilled chicken (the Cajuns don't have anything on me when it comes to spices) baby tomatoes (steamed in olive oil and Oregano), grilled asparagus, and oven roasted potatoes. Yep, I can totally wrap my lips around healthy eating.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Pop in for the new year

Hello to all in blogger-land.

I have all sorts of exciting ideas for my blog this year. Great things and I'm ready to get started . . . however, I've been busy getting my house in order. Didn't want to wait on spring cleaning, so I've jumped in to reorganize 'stuff' now. Came across these pics from one of my critique partners, and as I'm into ROOM reorganization, they completely distracted me. I had to share them. Hope they make you smile.

Toliet in downtown Houston. Okay, I like the mirrored look. Nothing that says, PORTA-POTTY here!


Now, this is from the inside looking out! One-way glass so you can still feel in the center of things. No Way! Not today. Not tomorrow. No way could I take care of business with people strolling by. They were called 'Water Closets' for a reason, folks. It's because they were in a CLOSET! Talk about voyeurism.



This one is in a skyscrapper. 10th or so floor. Floor being a figuarative term in this case. You go first!


Final room is a bit of a change. The smoker's lounge. This could well be the best money any company ever spent to lower the percentage of smokers at their firm.



Happy Monday to all.
Do drop by the porch, anytime. Believe it or not, we're back into the 60s. Gotta love Texas.
Until then,
~Sandra

Texas sayings

~Watch your step! Cacti, tumbleweeds, and an occasional armadillo might be ahead.

~Welcome to the land of tar-bubbling summers, gas-guzzling pickup trucks, standard Stetson headgear, and mile-high hair.

~Welcome to the Lone Star State, and Romance With A Texas Twist!

Quote of the Day