Friday, December 29, 2017

2018 Cometh!

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So many of my friends are posting about how this is the last work day of 2017 for them. I love how some of them are posting how they're going to kick butt today and make it a great day at the office. For some, it isn't the last work day of the year but for all of us, it's the end of the year winding down in a hurry. As I look towards 2018, I wanted to take a few minutes and write down some goals for the coming year. I don't really do resolutions but 2017 was such a big year for us that I want to carry that momentum into the new year.

I have different goals for different areas of my world, so let's get started with a breakdown:

1. Complete the downsizing and organizing of the downstairs.
2. Complete the downsizing and organizing of the landing.
3. Complete the downsizing, cleaning, and organizing of my bedroom.

1. Clean and organize the barn.
2. Tidy up back deck.
3. Start preparing things for moving (packing up pots, etc)

1. Attend more things as a family.
2. Work towards both boys graduations.
3. Spend one on one time with both boys.

1. Complete 2 full novels.
2. Set up a mailing list and have 1,000 subscribers.
3. Spend 1-2 hours each week learning things to help improve as an indie writer.

1. Post on Welcoming Weight Loss at least 2x per month.
2. Work on plans for the "big move".
3. Be brave - this one isn't measurable but I know that there will be bad brain days and this goal is more about survival than about improvement.

So, there we go. I think all of these are attainable. I just need to find the focus that sometimes alludes me. I look at that writing goal list and I realize that I have a goal that I'm afraid to post. That tells me that it's a goal that's important to me and that's a good reason to get it added to the list. So...not so top secret writing goal #4: Make enough money from writing to replace the small amount of child support that I receive each month because it's going to be going away.

If you want to make your own goal list but don't know where to start, I want to recommend this great podcast/blog post done by Russell Nohelty. He doesn't know it, but he's kind of my hero when it comes to these things. Make sure you check out his site and his books.

Time for me to get to work!

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Book Review: David Bowie

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Dylan Jones's engrossing, magisterial biography of David Bowie is unlike any Bowie story ever written. Drawn from over 180 interviews with friends, rivals, lovers, and collaborators, some of whom have never before spoken about their relationship with Bowie, this oral history weaves a hypnotic spell as it unfolds the story of a remarkable rise to stardom and an unparalleled artistic path. Tracing Bowie's life from the English suburbs to London to New York to Los Angeles, Berlin, and beyond, its collective voices describe a man profoundly shaped by his relationship with his schizophrenic half-brother Terry; an intuitive artist who could absorb influences through intense relationships and yet drop people cold when they were no longer of use; and a social creature equally comfortable partying with John Lennon and dining with Frank Sinatra. By turns insightful and deliciously gossipy, DAVID BOWIE is as intimate a portrait as may ever be drawn. It sparks with admiration and grievances, lust and envy, as the speakers bring you into studios and bedrooms they shared with Bowie, and onto stages and film sets, opening corners of his mind and experience that transform our understanding of both artist and art. Including illuminating, never-before-seen material from Bowie himself, drawn from a series of Jones's interviews with him across two decades, DAVID BOWIE is an epic, unforgettable cocktail-party conversation about a man whose enigmatic shapeshifting and irrepressible creativity produced one of the most sprawling, fascinating lives of our time.

I will never forget the reaction of friends when David Bowie died. He was mourned in such a way that I had never seen before. So, when this book became available, I requested it out of sheer curiosity. What was it about this man that people were so drawn to him? In this book, I learned just that in the stories told by those who knew him. Yes, at times, it felt as if I were in a room where people where gossiping and telling tales, but at the same time, I'm brought to memory every funeral dinner I have ever attended. That's just what we do. We tell the tales to keep the person close to you. If you're a long time Bowie fan or even just getting to know him, I recommend this book.

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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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

2017 in Review

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2017 is almost gone. Can you believe it? I know that I can't. It seems like just last week we were watching the ball drop and then the boys and I went back to playing games for a while before I chased them off to bed. But, here we are and since it's been a pretty big year around here, I thought that it was the perfect time for a year in review post. Positive things only because I don't think it's healthy for any of us to dwell on the negatives...just take what you can from them and move on. It's all any of us can do and remain (mostly) sane.

So, how did we do? Read on to find out!

Roger -
This kid had a pretty huge year. Back in the Spring, he was chosen not only for the Thornapple Jazz Festival All Star band, but also for the District 10 MSBOA All Star Jazz band. As if that wasn't enough, as soon as school was out, he attended the Aquinas Jazz camp and followed it up by leaving for Dominica less than 36 hours later. We both want to say thank you to those who helped get him there. It was an expensive trip and he couldn't have done it without his sponsors. While there, he helped remove fishing line from the coral reefs, went scuba diving, and studied invasive species which included catching and measuring tiny lizards and all sorts of things. It was an amazing experience for him and he still talks about it!

Since he's been back, he hasn't exactly rested on his laurels. He now has a job working at the local movie theatre, is an officer in Business Professionals of America, and is an honor student. As if that wasn't enough, he was/is leadership in his high school band and helped out a lot with marching band. Jazz season is upon us now and he's lead tenor in the high school jazz band. Perhaps most exciting for this Fall was his auditioning and being chosen to play with the Kalamazoo Youth Jazz Orchestra. Needless to say, he's one busy kid and this mom is a tiny bit relieved that he'll have his driver's license soon.

Ben -

Not one to let his brother look busier than him, Ben dove into working with the high school varsity teams again this year. He started the year with his second year of managing the varsity boys basketball team. It wasn't the most stellar of seasons, but his work running the camera for all of their games was highly praised. As soon as basketball wrapped for the year, he jumped right into working with the baseball team. It was a lot of hiking to the field, but he made some really good friends who helped out with rides and really enjoyed being outside and wearing the "infamous" duck hat. You'll have to ask him about

Summer came and found Ben working out at the YMCA summer camp, helping out in their kitchens. He really enjoyed it and learned some great skills that he can continue to hone. Once school came around again, Ben started his senior year. Yep, this kid is graduating this year! He worked hard with the football team, joined the Key Club, and helps out wherever he can. On top of that, he got to attend two Michigan State football games to cheer on his Spartans. We're back in the swing of basketball season and if he's not behind the camera, he's at practice encouraging the guys to work hard and to rebound.

Katrina -
As for me, I'm tired just writing about everything my boys did this past year. I know that I probably missed a few things too! As Ben says, "in all my free time", I was blessed to work with Nick and we published not one, but two books. Nick is an amazing storyteller and I am truly honored that he invited me into a universe that he created and said, "Here, it's yours now. Have fun." I'm incredibly proud of The Tether : None Good and The Tether : Except One. 

While most of my time belongs to getting the boys where they need to be or attending their events, I have also written a supplemental "novella" to go alongside books 1 and 2. In fact, with any luck, I'll be sending it off to Nick tonight for him to check out and to give me feedback on. I have some ideas for it that I'm hoping our readers will really like.

Looking back at 2017, my year doesn't look nearly as impressive as my boys, but knowing that I'm a big part of their years makes it all worth it. I'm looking forward to another "action packed" year. There will be more sports, more jazz, and more books and I'm thankful that I get to share those moments with all of you.

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Monday, December 25, 2017

Crockpot Monday: Chicken Parmesan

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Merry Christmas, everyone! Our holidays are a bit "off" with the boys splitting their time between their dad's house and mine. With that being the case, we rarely do a "traditional" Christmas dinner. This year, I was thinking we might try this...

Chicken Parmesan:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 beaten egg
sliced mozzarella cheese
1 (26-ounce bottle) favorite jarred marinara sauce


Spread the 1 tablespoon of olive oil into the bottom of your crockpot. Whip the egg with a fork in a separate bowl. Mix the bread crumbs with the seasonings and the parmesan cheese in another dish. Dip the chicken into the egg, then into the bread crumb mixture, coating both sides with crumbs, cheese and seasonings. Place the chicken breast pieces in the bottom of the crock. Layer 2-3 slices of mozzarella cheese on top and then cover with entire jar of marinara sauce.

Close lid and cook on low for 6-7 hours or high for 3-4. Serve with your favorite pasta.

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Monday, December 18, 2017

Crockpot Monday: Chicken Cordon Bleu

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Brrrrr! I was not ready for the cold and the snow this year! I hope the weather is treating you well wherever you are. For us, not only is it cold, but it's also nearly Christmas break! Since the boys aren't here as often as I'd like, I like to make all of their favorites and a few of mine over the holiday break. Starting with this treat...

Chicken Cordon Bleu:
4 chicken breast halves, pounded thin
4-8 slices of ham
4-8 slices of Swiss cheese
Can of your favorite cream-of-something soup *
2 Tablespoons low fat milk

Instead of soup, you could create your own with:

1 Tablespoon butter
3 Tablespoons flour
1/2 cup low-fat milk
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper


Spray crockpot with cooking spray.

Pound chicken breasts flat (put them in a plastic zipper bag before you pound so chicken juice doesn't spray everywhere).

Put a slice of the ham and a slice of the swiss cheese on the chicken breast and roll it up. Put it into the crockpot, seam side down. If desired, top with another piece of ham and cheese. Continue with the other pieces.
If you are making your own "special soup," make a roux on the stovetop with the butter and flour, and whisk in the broth, milk, and spices. Pour on top of the chicken or open can of cream-of soup. Pour into crockpot. Put the 2T of low fat milk into your empty can and swirl it around to get the remaining soup. Pour that in, too.

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

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