Friday, September 22, 2017

Book Review: Foundations of Drawing

10:34 AM 0 Comments
From a leading art instructor at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, a complete survey of drawing as an art form covering its history, materials, and key techniques, alongside step-by-step demonstrations.

Foundations of Drawing is a comprehensive and authoritative overview of the history, aesthetics, methods, and materials of the drawing medium. Throughout, clearly defined demonstrations provide easy access to the practice of drawing as well as the history and development of core drawing techniques. Richly illustrated, the book contains reproductions of the finest master drawings from the fifteenth century to the present. Unlike other drawing instruction books that focus on step-by-step lessons exclusively, Foundations of Drawing provides readers with the context and background to help understand just why these materials and methods are so vital for successful drawing.

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Artist I am not. That may be the understatement of the century. I cannot draw a straight line even with a ruler. Still, I very much appreciate art and I have quite a few friends who are artists so I thought I'd give this one a read through.

This book is perfect for those who aren't looking for a how to draw book. This book combines the history of drawing with drawing techniques. I especially appreciated the section on drawing materials. As someone who scrapbooks and colors in coloring books, it was information that I could use even if I never try to draw another sad little stick figure. I always appreciate books that have information that I can adapt to whatever it is that I'm doing.

So, if you're looking for a book that's jam packed with information, I'm sure you'll enjoy this book. As for me, I'm going to find an art lover to pass it on to because knowledge and art should be shared.





I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts, comments, and opinions are my own. 

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Monday, September 18, 2017

Crockpot Monday: Hashbrown Casserole

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Casseroles often are considered a thing of the past, but don't let that stop you from creating a delicious breakfast for your family! Who doesn't love oooey gooey cheese, hashbrowns, and eggs?

Ingredients:
30 ounce package of plain, frozen hashbrown (shredded) potatoes
4 already cooked sausage, or leftover diced ham
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1.5 cups shredded cheese
12 eggs
1 cup skim or fat free milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

Spray the inside of your crockpot with cooking spray. Dump in the whole package of hash browns. Spread them out with your fingers, and break up any clumps.

In a mixing bowl, mix the dozen eggs with the milk, salt, pepper, cheese, cut up sausage, and diced vegetables. Pour everything on top of the hash browns.

Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4. This is done when the eggs are fully cooked and the edges start to brown a bit. If you want the cheese to brown and get a bit crispy on the sides, cook it longer.

Breakfast is served!

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Friday, September 15, 2017

Book Review: How Music Works

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How Music Works is David Byrne's incisive and enthusiastic look at the musical art form, from its very inceptions to the influences that shape it, whether acoustical, economic, social or technological. Utilizing his incomparable career and inspired collaborations with Talking Heads, Brian Eno, and many others, Byrne taps deeply into his lifetime of knowledge to explore the panoptic elements of music, how it shapes the human experience, and reveals the impetus behind how we create, consume, distribute, and enjoy the songs, symphonies, and rhythms that provide the backbeat of life. Byrne's magnum opus uncovers ever-new and thrilling realizations about the redemptive liberation that music brings us all.

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Sometimes it's the simplest of covers that draw your attention. That was the case with this book for me. Some of you may be familiar with the author's musical career but as someone who is absolutely horrible with names, I was blank when I chose this book. That being said, I'm glad that I did pick it up.

While I read it cover to cover, it is written so that each chapter can be read on its own and in any order. I appreciated how Byrne tied together his own history with music with topical essays that were jam packed full of information. If I had a complaint it's that the book felt a bit heavy at times and I found that this was one where it was better for me to read a chapter a night and come back another night for more. This isn't necessarily a bad thing since this girl needs her beauty sleep!

All in all, a very enjoyable read that I'm looking forward to passing on to my musician son to see what he thinks.





I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts, comments, and opinions are my own.

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Monday, September 11, 2017

Crockpot Monday: Granola (cereal)

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They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? What do you think? I do find that if I eat a proper breakfast, I feel more prepared to handle whatever the day has in store for me. Have you ever made your own granola? That's what we're going to try this week!

Ingredients:
5 cups oats
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup melted butter
1 Tablespoon flax seeds
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup dried fruit (I used raisins and cranberries)

Directions:

Put all the dry ingredients into your crock pot. Melt the butter in the microwave and add. Add the honey. Toss well.

Cover, but vent with a chopstick. Cook on high for 3-4 hours, stirring every so often.

If you can smell the granola cooking, go stir. It will burn if you don't keep an eye on it. But it won't burn as quickly this way as it does in the oven!

Let me know what you think!


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Friday, September 8, 2017

Book Review: The Barbizon Diaries

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“Mythologies are huge, sweeping things. And the grandest stories are those with the widest arcs of triumph and despair. As much as we may want to, we may not be able to avoid the despair – but triumph is a matter of will." DRAWING OUT THE DRAGONS was written for everyone, but this second book in The Meditations series is an advanced course in surviving the Refiner’s Fire – because some stories are too important not to share, and some stories are too meaningful to hide.

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If you read my last review, you'll know that I'm fairly in love with how James has found the courage to not only tell his story but to embrace it and himself. The day after I finished Drawing Out the Dragons, I started The Barbizon Diaries. It wasn't about what happened next (or in this case during since the time frames overlap), it was about finding more of myself during a period where I felt completely lost.

Like James, I've had things that have happened to me in my life. So much, in fact, that people have asked me how I ever managed to survive let alone turn into a great person. Those are their words, I promise. I would never describe myself that way. The difference is that while James faced things head on, I put my head down and just tried to survive.

If any of that resonates with you, please pick up this book and read it. While reading the first book would be a very good thing, this one easily stands on its own and I honestly think that there's something for everyone in there.





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Monday, September 4, 2017

Crockpot Monday: Layered Dinner

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Happy Labor Day, everyone! On this hopefully lovely day, none of us ought to be slaving away in the kitchen. I know some of you are having cookouts and enjoying one last break before everything Fall jumps into play, but for those of you who aren't, why not try this recipe for Layered Dinner and let me know what you think!

Ingredients:

1.5 pounds rib eye steak (or whatever meat you have on hand)
1 tablespoon of your favorite seasoning rub
1 tablespoon dried onion flakes (or fresh onion)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup broth
2-4 potatoes
2-4 ears of fresh corn
aluminum foil

Directions: 

Put meat in the bottom of the crockpot. Rub with seasoning and onion, and flip over to get the other side. Add broth and Worcestershire sauce.

Wash potatoes and cover with foil. Add to the pot. Shuck the corn, and wrap each ear in foil. Add to the crockpot.

Cover and cook on high for 5-7 hours, or on low for about 8. Unwrap and serve!

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Friday, September 1, 2017

Book Review: Drawing Out the Dragons

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"I believe in you. You have a great destiny. You are meant for great things. And it s possible to live a wonderful, extraordinary life." That is the promise offered by bestselling author and illustrator James A. Owen in this remarkable and inspirational meditation. In Drawing Out the Dragons, James shares personal stories and the deep truths he learned while navigating past obstacles and adversity toward a life of lasting belief and joy. We all have a grand destiny, but sometimes we feel we lack the power to achieve it. But we always have the power to choose. Every drawing, every life, is nothing but a series of choices and actions. Make your lines. Make your choices. . . . What you create from there is entirely up to you. Drawing Out the Dragons has the power to uplift, inspire, and change your life.

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Sometimes in life, you get what you need just when you need it. For me, that was the case with Drawing Out the Dragons. I was chin deep in a depression that was threatening to swallow me whole and me, being me, posted about it on my blog. It wasn't much later that I received a Facebook message from someone reminding me that they'd sent me the pdfs of not only this book, but the other two in the series. Little did either of us realize, but I'd purchased the Kindle versions back in 2016 and forgotten all about it until I found my Kindle and they were right on top staring at me. Never one to ignore such blatant hints from the universe, I curled up at the park one day and started reading. I didn't stop until I'd finished this book.

Why? Because every page spoke to me on some level. James has been through some horrendous things, but it wasn't his difficulties that had me. After all, I've long said that everyone of us on this planet has a challenge or challenges to overcome. It was the ways in which James overcame them. He never quit. Here I was contemplating the value of my own life and James is screaming from the rooftops that it's okay and that no matter what, he isn't going to let me fall. Sometimes, when everything seems the darkest, all it takes is one person saying hey, I believe in you. Sometimes all it takes is seeing how someone else survived and thrived to make you sit up, take some deep breathes, and say, "Okay world, let's give this another shot."

Thank you, James...for reminding me that I can do this and like you say in the book, "Always, always ask for what you want. Because the Universe might surprise you — and give it to you.” I'm hoping to someday be able to ask for one of those Dragon pictures because I want it to serve as a reminder of what I can do in this world. 



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Monday, August 28, 2017

Crockpot Monday: Korean Beef Soft Tacos

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Today is the first day of school. I can't believe it but I have not only a junior, but a senior as well! Where the heck has the time gone? It just doesn't seem possible that they're this old already.  I'm trying really hard not to blink because I'm afraid if I do, I'll open my eyes and they'll be married with kids of their own! As long as my eyes are open, I might as well get dinner going....

Ingredients:
 3-4 pounds beef roast
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 head garlic (peeled, but cloves intact - about 10 cloves)
 1/2 onion, diced
1 inch fresh ginger root, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons seasoned rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 whole jalapeno, diced (be careful! use gloves!)
*Shredded Cabbage (recipe below!)

The Directions:

Use a 6-quart slow cooker. Trim off the visible fat from your roast. Toss all of the ingredients into the crockpot. Ta da!

Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or until meat has fully shredded.  Serve in soft corn or flour tortillas with shredded cabbage salad and white or brown rice.

Shredded Cabbage:

1 bag shredded coleslaw from the grocery store's produce section
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Toss together and serve immediately (It wilts if you leave it sit for too long.)

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Friday, August 25, 2017

Book Review: Blackstrap's Estacy

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It may be a junk, but Ecstasy is not a ship to trifle with! Nor is her captain! Pirate, harem girl, thief or noble lady? No one, not even her eclectic crew, is quite certain where Blackstrap Gennie came from and they certainly are never sure of where she will go. But as those who follow her, know, adventure, explosions, and treasure are never in short supply!

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I was given this book a number of years ago by a friend who was given it by the author but just couldn't get through it. I showed some interest and the next thing I knew, it was coming home with me!

The Good: This book is filled with some really fun and interesting characters and the story, of sorts, keeps hopping along.

The Bad: This book is written in a nonlinear style which means that we get a chapter of action and a chapter of backstory regarding the character that we had just been introduced to. I really feel as if this limited the story and there could have been so much more to it than what was there.

The Summary:  I'm afraid that I have to agree with my friend and give this a meh rating. The potential for something really good was there but it just didn't hit the mark.


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Monday, August 21, 2017

Crockpot Monday: Hawaiian Ribs

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Ahhh Hawaii...land of sandy beaches, ocean waves, and some of the best food this country has to offer. If it weren't a mere few days before the boys had to go back to school and if I'd won the lottery over the summer, Hawaii sounds like the perfect place to get away to...

Ingredients: 
2 pounds boneless beef short ribs, or about 4 pounds baby back ribs
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon Chinese 5-Spice powder (recipe included!)
6 cloves minced garlic

Chinese 5 Spice Powder recipe:
(mix spices well, and store in an air-tight container for up to 6 months)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon crushed anise seed
1/4 teaspoon ground fennel
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

 Directions:

If you're using boneless ribs, they will probably fit nicely in a 4 quart slow cooker. If you've got bones, you'll most likely need a 6-quart.

Put the ribs into the cooker, and top with the remaining ingredients. If you want, you can mix the other ingredients in a small bowl and then brush onto the ribs, but it’s really not necessary.

Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, or on high for about 4 to 5. Flip the ribs over a few times before serving to cover evenly in the sauce. The longer and slower you cook the ribs, the more tender the meat.


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Friday, August 18, 2017

Book Review: Home, Hearth, and Holidays

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With holidays approaching in the charming town of Appleton, and Daphne Ballinger's deadline to "get hitched" drawing closer, Daphne finds herself happily distracted with the unexpected tasks of "motherhood" Young Mabel is enjoying the attention, but the clock is ticking and unless love comes her way, Daphne's delightful life will start unraveling by spring.

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Book 3 in the series! I can't believe that I had this one on my shelf already as well. It might be time to take stock of what's sitting there, eh?

The Good: Another easy to read title and slowly some of those threads are starting to come together and it's becoming pretty clear to see how this series is going to end. I adore Mabel and I was so glad to see a bit of Daphne's best friend back in this book. She was very much missed in book two.

The Bad: Again, no identification that this is book #___ in a series. I really think that's important so that people know when the pick up the book. I will say that the author needs to watch for inconsistencies like who knows what, what houses are for sale/rent, and what people's names are. Both her
The Summary: If you've made it this far, you need to read this book as well, if only for Mabel's sake. Time is ticking...what's going to happen to Daphne, Mabel, Lucy, and Ethel?





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Monday, August 14, 2017

Crockpot Monday: French Dip Sandwiches

9:48 AM 1 Comments
While these aren't one of my personal favorites, my boy seem to love them and what better way of balancing out the pre-school preparation than to treat them to some of their dinner favorites!

Ingredients:
2 pounds thin pieces of steak (fajita meat works well for this!)
1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons butter
3 cups beef broth
1 (12-ounce) bottle of beer
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup cooking sherry
1 yellow onion, cut in rings
3 cloves smashed and chopped garlic
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Directions:

Put the butter into the bottom of the crockpot and turn on. Add the meat, garlic, and onions, and swirl around in the butter. Pour in the broth, beer, and cooking sherry. Add pepper and Worcestershire sauce.

Cover and cook on low for 7-9 hours.

If your meat is still in large chunks, remove it carefully, and slice. Return the meat back to the broth.
Serve on rolls with the juices on the side.

Dip the sandwich into the broth before each bite for a nice juicy flavor and consistency.


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Friday, August 11, 2017

Book Review: Dating, Dining, and Desperation

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Daphne Ballinger has learned to accept her deceased, eccentric aunt’s strange request that she marry in order to inherit her estate, along with taking over her aunt’s hometown paper’s advice column.

But knowing and accepting that God’s will be done becomes harder when a new neighbor, a divorced socialite, learns of Daphne’s predicament and takes on the task of finding her the perfect man, even if it includes speed dating. When God does open Daphne’s heart, it is instead to take in a young girl left parentless and in the care of her dying grandmother. It may be a temporary arrangement until the girl’s uncle returns from the Marines, but God uses Daphne to speak His heavenly love and protection into the life of the child -- whom Daphne soon discovers has a very handsome and single uncle.

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Once I discovered that the story wasn't done in book 1, I realized that I had books 2 and 3 already on my shelf and could dive right in...just like we're about to do with the review!

The Good: I loved the addition of Sabrina in this book. She was a dose of "interesting air" on what was starting to feel like a sad neighborhood. Add in that little girl and her story and I was smitten. I could very much relate to parts of this book and what some of the characters were going through.

The Bad: I really missed Daphne's best friend in this book. It very much felt as if she had been forgotten. Of course, there's also the fact that again, this book is part of a series and in no way does it say book 2 on it. The only thing that may tip you off is where it says that it's another Dear Daphne story. That doesn't scream part of a series where you have to have read the previous books to me.

The Summary: Another easy, throw in your tote bag and laze in the hammock kind of book. If you don't mind cliffhanger series, go ahead and add this one to your to read pile.


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Monday, August 7, 2017

Crockpot Monday: Creamy Beef with Noodles

9:38 AM 1 Comments
August already! Where did the summer go? In just a few short weeks, the boys will be back in school and we'll be eyeball deep in football and marching band. While I love Fall, I'm not quite ready for summer to give up its grip on us....

Ingredients:
2 pounds stew meat
2 tablespoons butter (salted or unsalted; your choice)
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon black pepper, depending on your tastes
2 tablespoons dried minced onion (1 one small yellow onion, finely diced)
1/4 cup beef broth
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon herbs de provence
1/2 block of cream cheese (4 ounces)
*Pasta

Directions:

Place all ingredients, except cream cheese into crockpot. Cover and cook on low for 10-12 hours. Stir in cream cheese until it’s fully incorporated. Serve over hot pasta.


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Friday, August 4, 2017

Book Review: Lock, Stock, and Over a Barrel

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With high hopes, Daphne Ballinger lands her dream job at The New York Times. But it's not long until writing about weddings becomes a painful reminder of her own failed romance, and her love of the city slowly sours as well. Is it time to give up the Big Apple for her small hometown of Appleton?

When her eccentric Aunt Dee passes away and leaves a sizeable estate to Daphne, going back home is an easy choice. What isn’t easy is coming to terms with the downright odd clauses written into the will.

Daphne only stands to inherit the estate if she agrees to her aunt's very specific posthumous terms -- personal and professional. And if she fails to comply, the sprawling old Victorian house shall be bequeathed to . . . Aunt Dee’s cats.

And if Daphne thinks that’s odd, wait until she finds out an array of secrets about Aunt Dee's life, and how imperfect circumstances can sometimes lead to God's perfect timing.

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This cover has been staring at me from my bookshelf and so I finally gave in and grabbed it. I have zero regrets. Let's get into the review!

The Good : The characters in this book are hard not to love. I found myself wishing that I'd had an Aunt Dee when I was growing up and I really could connect with Daphne as she struggles to find herself. The book moves smoothly and was perfect for a lazy afternoon along the river.

The Bad: The book ends rather abruptly without any of the plot threads being tied off. Luckily, a quick Amazon search showed me that this was book 1 of 4 in a series. Nowhere on the book does it actually say that.

The Summary: A fun, light read that will pull you in and keep you there to the end.


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Monday, July 31, 2017

Crockpot Monday: Cajun Turkey Breast

10:20 AM 0 Comments
If you're anything like me, you're longing for a vacation right about now. I'm not going to lie. I would kill for a few days away someplace with a hot shower, a cozy bed, and some really good food. Sadly, it's not in the cards...well those first two things, anyway! Really good food we can do!

Ingredients:
Turkey breast
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper (cayenne)
1 Tablespoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3-4 sprigs of fresh rosemary, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1 cup chicken broth

Directions:
In a bowl, combine all of your spices together. Rub the turkey with the spice mixture, getting it in all the nooks and crannies. Put the turkey into your crockpot, breast side down. If you have extra spice mix left, go ahead and pour it on top. Add the 1 cup of chicken broth.

Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Crockpot Monday: Beer Braised Turkey

11:12 AM 0 Comments
If the beer in this recipe gives you a moment of pause, don't worry...the alcohol will cook out well before serving. Personally, I'm contemplating changing this recipe up with a bottle of cider instead of beer. If you do a bit of experimenting, be sure to comment and let me know what you tried and how it turned out!

Ingredients:
2 pounds potatoes, washed and quartered
1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
3 pounds turkey drumsticks, or a bone-in turkey breast
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon dried basil (or 1/4 cup finely diced fresh basil leaves)
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 (12-ounce) bottle of beer

Directions:

Use a 6-quart slow cooker. Place the potatoes and onion into the bottom of your crockpot, and add turkey on top. Drop in butter, basil, and lemon juice. Sprinkle on salt, and pour in the beer.

Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 4-5 hours.


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Friday, July 21, 2017

Book Review: The Inkblots

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The captivating, untold story of Hermann Rorschach and his famous inkblot test, which has shaped our view of human personality and become a fixture in popular culture

In 1917, working alone in a remote Swiss asylum, psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach devised an experiment to probe the human mind. For years he had grappled with the theories of Freud and Jung while also absorbing the aesthetic of a new generation of modern artists. He had come to believe that who we are is less a matter of what we say, as Freud thought, than what we see.

Rorschach himself was a visual artist, and his test, a set of ten carefully designed inkblots, quickly made its way to America, where it took on a life of its own. Co-opted by the military after Pearl Harbor, it was a fixture at the Nuremberg trials and in the jungles of Vietnam. It became an advertising staple, a cliché in Hollywood and journalism, and an inspiration to everyone from Andy Warhol to Jay-Z. The test was also given to millions of defendants, job applicants, parents in custody battles, workers applying for jobs, and people suffering from mental illness—or simply trying to understand themselves better. And it is still used today.

Damion Searls draws on unpublished letters and diaries, and a cache of previously unknown interviews with Rorschach’s family, friends, and colleagues, to tell the unlikely story of the test’s creation, its controversial reinvention, and its remarkable endurance—and what it all reveals about the power of perception. Elegant and original, The Inkblots shines a light on the twentieth century’s most visionary synthesis of art and science.

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I've been reading a lot of fiction lately and wanted something a bit different so when this book became available for review, it seemed like the perfect timing. Finding the time to read it, however, is another story for another day. Let's talk about Rorschach.

The Good: This book reads as if you're talking with a friend. I love this author's style. Biographies can be dry but I never had that experience with "The Inkblots". In fact, I picked it up every chance that I got because, almost like a fiction book, I wanted to know what happened next.

The Bad: The second half of the book is about what happened with the test after Rorschach's death and while interesting, I admit that it had a bit more trouble holding my attention.

The Summary: If you're interested in psychology, psychiatry, or just really well written biographies, I suggest you pick up a copy of this book. I don't think that you'll regret it.

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I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts, comments, and opinions are my own.

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Monday, July 17, 2017

Crockpot Monday: Asian Turkey

11:07 AM 0 Comments
For the longest time, I turned my nose up at any recipe that declared itself to be Asian. Why? Soy sauce. I just didn't like it. It's still not my favorite but I've found that if it's paired right, it can be downright tasty!

Ingredients:
1 turkey breast (5-7 pounds)
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup sesame oil
1 Tablespoon peanut butter
1 Tablespoon prepared horseradish cream
3 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
2 limes, juiced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

Place the turkey breast into the crockpot, breast side down. In a small mixing bowl, combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, peanut butter, horseradish, chopped garlic, lime juice, and salt. Whisk together until everything is incorporated. Pour the sauce all over the turkey breast, allowing the sauce to pool up in the rib cage cavity.

Cover. If your lid doesn't fit on your pot completely (mine didn't), cover the top of your insert with layers of foil. Crimp the edges as tightly as you can and then place your lid on top. Cook on low for about 8 hours, or until meat is no longer pink when you cut into it and registers 170 degrees. If your turkey has a built-in thermometer it should pop up.

Carefully remove the turkey from the pot and let sit for 10 minutes or so before slicing.

If you’re a gravy fan, pour the turkey drippings into a small sauce pan and boil on the stove until the sauce has thickened and reduced. Serve with your favorite sides!


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Friday, July 14, 2017

Book Review: Death in the Floating City

9:28 AM 0 Comments
Years ago, Emily's childhood nemesis, Emma Callum, scandalized polite society when she eloped to Venice with an Italian count. But now her father-in-law lies murdered, and her husband has vanished. There's no one Emma can turn to for help but Emily, who leaves at once with her husband, the dashing Colin Hargreaves, for Venice. There, her investigations take her from opulent palazzi to slums, libraries, and bordellos. Emily soon realizes that to solve the present day crime, she must first unravel a centuries old puzzle. But the past does not give up its secrets easily, especially when these revelations might threaten the interests of some very powerful people.

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Another of my free library shelf finds! The title captured my attention and so I tossed it into my bag and on my last "make myself take downtime day", I picked it up and read the whole darned thing before I realized it! That's a good sign that I enjoyed the book, but let's break it down a little bit more.

I'm a sucker for a mystery and this one was really well written. Even though the chapters switch between present and past, there was absolutely no confusion and it was easy to see how they were tied together. The characters felt true in their interactions and even though this was the only book in the series that I've read so far, I still felt as if I knew them.

Now, if I have to find a complaint, it's only that the ending seemed off to me. I don't mind being surprised by who the bad guy is, but somehow it just didn't feel right to me. Still, it didn't stop me from enjoying the book.

So, if you like mysteries, check out the Lady Emily series. I know I'm going to try to track down another one and if I spot one on the free shelf, it's going home with me.


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Monday, July 10, 2017

Crockpot Monday: Apple, Cheddar & Turkey Meatballs

10:59 AM 1 Comments
Who doesn't love meatballs? I honestly can't think of a single person in my world that is anti-meatball. If you know of someone, I'd love to hear their story! Just drop me a comment below.

Now...on to delicious!

Ingredients:
1.5 pounds extra lean ground turkey
1 egg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 green apple, peeled and shredded
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1/2 cup dried unsweetened cranberries

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl, mix the ground turkey with the other ingredients. Don’t be afraid to use your hands!

Make golf-ball sized meatballs, and drop them into your crockpot.

Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours, or on low for 5-9. Remember that the more full your crockpot is, the longer these will take to cook.

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Friday, July 7, 2017

Book Review: Irish Cream

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Damian "Day" O'Sullivan is a troubled young man who blames himself for a tragic vehicular homicide he may not have committed. Trouble is, Day's entire family seems to be conspiring to pin the crime on the poor lad, which only leads Nuala and Dermot to wonder who really ran over (three times!) Rodney Keefe in the parking lot of a ritzy Chicago country club.

The O'Sullivans are a ruthlessly ambitious clan of South Side Irish, who consider themselves the cream of the Irish-American community. The sensitive Day has always been something of a black sheep in the family---and perhaps a scapegoat as well.

But the twisted saga of the O'Sullivans isn't the only mystery to be unraveled. Having stumbled onto the diary of Father Richard Lonigan, a nineteenth-century parish priest assigned to a remote village in old Donegal, Dermot and Nuala find themselves caught up in the closely guarded secrets and scandals of that desolate time and place, where simmering resentment against the ruling English sometimes erupted into violence and murder....

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It's been ages since I picked up an Andrew Greeley book and when I spotted this one on the library free shelf, I let myself go ahead and spoil myself. I'm always telling my boys to make good choices and I'm pleased to say that I did by following my gut.

As always, the characters delighted me. This is book 8 in the series, but don't let that stop you from reading it if you get a chance. It works perfectly as a standalone. I loved the addition of Day to this book! He's the perfect project for Nuala and crew!

I do, however, have to report that the switching between the Father Lonigan "mystery" and the modern happenings did throw me off. I couldn't, for the life of me, figure out the connection between the two events and since the mystery isn't revealed until the very end, it just felt as if I were reading two separate books. That being said, both were enjoyable!

So, in conclusion (I'm feeling fancy today!), I really do recommend any of the Nuala books written by Andrew Greeley. They're all delightful. Well, at the least the ones I've had the joy of reading have been. I'd say they're the perfect curl up under a blanket and lose yourself in a story type of book.

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Monday, July 3, 2017

Crockpot Monday: Turkey Cutlets

10:38 AM 0 Comments
 Long time no recipes! Life got away from me this Spring and I feel as if I'm still playing a game of catch up! I have one kid in the Caribbean on a science research trip (holy fundraising for that!) and the other one is now working five days a week. Since he can't drive, I'm doing a lot of driving back and forth. Since money is tight, I'm using the time he's at work to hang out at the library in the hopes of catching up on some stuff! First on the list? Getting our recipe section moving again!

Now, I know it's summer and depending where you live, turkey can be tough to come by unless it's a full turkey or ground turkey. No worries..substitute chicken or just hold onto these until Fall!

Ingredients:
1.25 pounds turkey breast cutlets
8.5 oz jar sundried tomatoes, drained and rinsed
2 oz can anchovies, drained and rinsed
6 slices of bacon

Directions:
Spread the bacon on the bottom of your crockpot. Rinse off the anchovies, and lay them on top. Add the turkey cutlets. Rinse off a bit of the oil from the sundried tomatoes, and add them on top of the turkey.

Cover and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours.


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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Growing Up

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Today I dropped off the youngest at Jazz Camp for the week and as I drove away, it struck me just how independent he's become. As soon as we'd collected his things from the car, he took off for the dorm and forgot I was even there in his excitement to reconnect with his friends from last year. After I gave him his things, he joined his friends and didn't even look up as I left.  Please don't get me wrong, he wasn't rude or disrespectful. He was ready to move on with this coming week. He was ready for this next mini chapter.

Tonight, idly looking at house listings, I started to wonder how ready I am. In 11 months, my oldest will graduate from high school.  He's nervous about it and I spent some time tonight talking about options with him. There's a local trade school especially for disabled people. They have a program that he might be interested in. I'll need to see if they do job placement or anything like that because if they don't, the program he's interested in is fairly useless.

Still, it got him thinking about changes too. He knows that after his brother graduates from high school, I have to move. We talked today about places I could move to. He asked me where I had friends because I don't have any here. He told me that he doesn't care where I move because it's my life and I have to be happy. It made me smile to hear such an adult thought come from him. He's growing up and I can no longer deny that both him and his brother are on the verge of adulthood. It won't be long before they'll be doing their own things and where will that leave me?

Creating a whole new world for myself.  For nearly 18 years now, I've been mom. That's been my role, my title, and my life. Soon though, I'll be having to make the tough decisions and trying to decide what's best, not for them, but for myself. In theory, I could move anywhere in the world. In reality, I think I'd better stay in this country..heh... That being said, there's a lot of country out there. I could stay nearby wherever the boys are. I could move somewhere random. There's also ...well, I don't really talk about this, but there's a man that I've fallen for and right now, circumstances outside of our control don't allow for us to be together, but who knows, maybe we might find ourselves in closer proximity.

That's a lot of well maybes, huh? There's also the question of what do I do with myself when mom isn't my full-time gig. I would really like to write and to make enough to be able to start paying off old bills. Wouldn't that be smashing? I think so. Of course, it means educating myself as to how to promote my writing better so that people know it exists. A friend on Facebook posted the other night that he met an author who makes about $60k a month (I think, a month was the time frame) but also spends $5-10k during that same time frame on advertising. That's a great return, but I have no way of investing that kind of money into myself. Is it possible to start the ball rolling without spending that kind of money? I have no idea. I guess that's where educating myself comes in.

So, here we are...about 2 years until I have to be moving on from where I'm at and a lot of decisions to make, a lot of work to do, and a lot of finding me that needs to happen before then.

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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Fearing Success

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"People who have experienced trauma may associate the excitement of success with the same physiological reactions as trauma. They avoid subjecting themselves to excitement-inducing circumstances, which causes them to be almost phobic about success." -- Psychology Today

"The Jonah complex is the fear of success which prevents self-actualization or the realization of one's potential. It is the fear of one's own greatness, the evasion of one's destiny, or the avoidance of exercising one's talents. Just as the fear of achieving a personal worst can motivate personal growth, the fear of achieving a personal best can also hinder achievement." -- Wikipedia

Yesterday, I wrote a post about finding myself and in it, I mentioned how I'm the only thing standing in my way of so many things. Today, I woke up absolutely exhausted and immediately went into beat myself up/I'm worthless mode. I sat here feeling sorry for myself. There's no other words to describe it. When my body/brain says you need a down day, I get incredibly frustrated and I take it out on myself. A lot of us do that. We beat ourselves up over things that are outside of our control.

I'd love to tell you that I meditated or came to some brilliant conclusion that brought me here today, but the reality is that I noticed that I had Pinterest open in a tab so I decided to lazy scroll through things and see what I found. What I found was a whole lot of pins on writing and it reminded me of yesterday's post so here I am...after pinning about a dozen of them to go back to later.

If you know me well at all, you know that I write. I write stories, I write posts, I write diary entries in Word that may or may not ever be seen by the world. I write. It's what I do. It's what I've done for as long as I remember. It's what I want to do with my life. I want to write.

Seems easy enough, right? If someone said to me that they wanted to write, I'd say, "Then write." Except it's not that simple. Okay, the writing part is. Writing isn't difficult for me. Heck, hand me a notebook and a pen and I'll doodle and write all day long. It's the part that comes after that...what do I do with it once I write it? Do I file it away somewhere? Do I publish it? Do I tell anyone about it?

Just a few days ago, I got the Facebook notification that on this day a year ago, I published my first story on Amazon. I've gone on to publish something like 8 stories. In that year, I've never made enough off selling them to even receive a royalty payment. Why? Because I've been afraid to take the next steps. I have the resources. Russell Nohelty has a podcast all about building up your creative business. I'm part of at least one really good authors' group on Facebook. I'm friends (or at least Facebook friends) with multiple published writers.

So what's holding me back? Me. I am. I'm the problem. I'm terrified of what happens if I do this and I do it well. What will that mean for my life? What changes will there be? Just thinking about it has my anxiety flaring up. Then, there's the other side of it. I look around at the people surrounding me and I think "What's the point in even trying? There are so many people out there already doing this. There's nothing special about me or what I do."

I'm afraid of success and I'm afraid of failure. So, I do nothing. I write my stories and sometimes I post them and sometimes I don't. I write here and since it's mostly ignored by the outside world, I tell myself that it's a sure sign that my writing isn't any good. If it were, surely something I'd written would have gained traction by now. Is that the truth? Probably not. There are a million people out there writing the same  types of things on their blogs. There's no reason that mine would gain attention.

Still, I write because I can't imagine a life without doing it. This is part of me. I just have to decide if I'm brave enough to really show people what I can do and if I am, I have to start taking those steps. I know that I'm not alone in feeling like this and I hope that I'm not alone in whatever happens next.

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