Friday, August 12, 2011

How To Write a Novel - Part One

Shhh ... listen carefully. Can you hear it? I think there might be an echo in here. It's okay though. I don't mind if you are my only reader. I'm glad you're here.

And this blogging thing is all a learning process for me, if nothing else.

I'll let you in on a secret. Sometimes I talk to myself. I hear lots of voices in my head, too. They are helpful. They guide me in my writing.

I've been toying with an idea for some time now. And now the voices are pointing me outward to "signs." You know the ones that are "in your face."

Wait a minute. Let me go back. Back to the beginning.

It was after I had taken a few writing classes that I decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month with nothing more than a hint of an idea. I guess you could say it was one of those voices in my head telling me that I had to bring it to life.

So in November of that year, I sat down and let my fingers do the talking on my keyboard. I decided to let it flow out without an outline. It was rough, very rough. In fact, looking back, I was embarrassed that I had let someone else read it.

I had it edited and after I made the suggested changes, it got better.

But still, it wasn't good enough.

I signed up for another class. I learned a little more. I edited it again. And it got a little better. Now, at two-thirds of the way through re-writes, it's quite a different story than what I started with.

Time is hard to find though. I write a little here and a little there. When there is a lapse in my writing schedule, the signs start appearing. Yelling at me to get to work. Characters from my book appear in my everyday life.

While it is my intent to pick apart my journey of this whole writing process here, I really should be using this time to work on final re-writes.

So we'll see.

In the meantime, if you need some good reading material, visit my online literary magazine, Mouse Tales Press.

I hope to see you again.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Beauty Tips Using Oil

Oil has a bad reputation. The media often warns against ingesting excessive oil in the diet. However, there is another side to oil; it is an excellent beauty product that can be used in many ways to help maintain a youthful appearance. Before tossing out your oil, try using it for these home beauty treatments.

Skin and Hair Softening

Jojoba oil may be applied to the hair for a deep, nourishing conditioner. Apply approximately 1-2 tablespoons adjusting as needed according to your hair length and texture, and then wrap your hair in a warm towel for 30 minutes. For extra conditioning, apply before bedtime and leave in overnight. Shampoo and condition your hair as usual following this treatment.

Evening primrose oil is an excellent skin softener. It may be bought in capsule form to use as part of your diet. For skin softening, take one capsule and puncture it with a sterilized needle. Put one drop of oil under each eye before bedtime and awaken to soft, nourished skin in the morning.

Vitamin E oil is an excellent cuticle softener. After getting out of the shower or bath, gently push back the cuticles with your towel. Next rub a small amount of vitamin E oil on each cuticle. Apply also at bedtime to keep cuticles soft and nourished.

Cleansing with Oil

Jojoba oil may also be mixed with castor oil to make a powerful pore cleanser, ridding the skin of clogged pores known as blackheads. Mix according to your skin type; for oily skin, increase the concentration of castor oil, using one third castor oil to two-thirds jojoba oil. A drop of pure lavender oil may be added for an extra soothing cleanser. Apply the mix to your face by massaging it in to the skin for twenty minutes. There is no need to use soap to remove it. Place a warm,damp towel over the skin to dissolve the oil before wiping it away.

Another use for castor oil is as a natural cleanser which may be used to make packs applied to the outside of the body. A heating pad is applied over the area, usually the abdomen, which helps to rid the body of toxins. This method was developed by Edgar Cayce and has become well-known as an alternative remedy in dealing with major health issues.

For soft, glowing skin, use olive oil not only topically as a moisturizer, but also as a scrub. Place one-half cup of sugar into a bowl. Add one-fourth to one-half cup of olive oil and stir. Use this scrub in the shower to cleanse your body of dead skin and reveal the softer, glowing skin underneath.

An excellent oil for cleansing the body of toxins is sunflower oil, used in Oil-Pulling, an Ayurvedic method of pulling toxins out of the body. Upon rising in the morning and before ingesting any food or drink, take one tablespoon of cold-pressed sunflower oil into the mouth. Swish the oil around as though chewing it for up to 30 minutes, until the oil is thin. This remaining oil will be filled with toxins and should not be spit into your sink. When it has reached this consistency, spit the remainder into the toilet and rinse your mouth immediately with mouthwash.

These are only a few of the beauty treatments that oil may be used for. Months of soft, clean skin and hair may be yours in exchange for something that may already be in your kitchen cupboard.

**Author's Note: This article was first published on Suite101 on Sept. 23, 2008**

Friday, June 17, 2011

Guinea Pig Grooming Day (And Other Random Talk)

Since my kids are on summer vacation, I have been getting up early to get some writing time in. Once they are awake, it’s on to other things.

Yesterday, we got our piggies together and shuffled them off to the pet grooming salon to have their nails trimmed.

After a squeak-filled pedicure, next stop was the pet store to pick up some supplies. When we got there, my daughter opened her pig, Megan’s, carrier so she could get a look at the boy guinea pigs, who by the way, thought she was pretty cute.

When my daughter peeked inside her carrier though, she saw blood. Not just a little blood, but quite a bit of it on the towel she was sitting on. It turns out her nails had been cut too far down. The groomers at the pet store told us to apply Styptic Powder to stop the bleeding. First, we had to get the poor girl cleaned of all the blood on her belly. So into the bath she went.

We filled a tub with lukewarm water and gently placed Megan into the water. Squeaks and serenity filled every strand of her furry being. She even enjoyed it when we lathered her.

Once out of the water, Megan sat wrapped in a towel, swaddled like a baby until she was dry. While in the water, the bleeding had stopped. However, by this time, it started dripping again.

With the help of a moistened cotton ball, I dipped it into the Styptic Powder and gently squeezed her toenail with it. After about 10 seconds, the bleeding stopped. Whew!

When Megan was dry, back into her clean cage she went. And then it was Bambe’s turn for a bath, which was not as much of a joyful experience for her.

She was ecstatic to be cuddled in my arms while she dried though.

Then my son headed off for a sleep-over, so my daughter and I worked on finishing another sock doll. We also got our June Fundraising Auction up and running! Half of the selling price will go towards Arthritis Research. Here's a photo of the doll we're auctioning...

I'm sorry to admit that I still haven’t tried that vegan homemade ice cream because I got a horrible craving for chocolate covered strawberries. Fifteen minutes in the kitchen and voila, my longing was satisfied.

And they are even better when dipped in whipping cream. Mmmmm ... I'll be back later. I think there are a couple of strawberries left calling my name...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

How to Make Homemade Ice Cream Without a Machine

I love to cook. And during the school year, we wind up going out to eat a lot because of our busy schedules. So when summer vacation arrives, I get the urge to try out all of those recipes I haven’t had time to experiment with the rest of the year.

Yesterday, it was homemade ice cream. I was determined to figure out how to make it even though we don’t have an ice cream maker.

First I started with buying the ingredients. For the first batch, I used this recipe:

Homemade Chocolate Ice Cream


• 1 Can Sweetened, Condensed Milk
• 2 Cups Whipping Cream, Whipped
• 1/3 Cup Chocolate Syrup
• 1 Gallon Sized Ziploc Bag
• 1 Quart Sized Ziploc Bag
• 6 Tablespoons Rock Salt
• Ice


Mix sweetened, condensed milk together with chocolate syrup.
Whip the whipping cream and then fold it in.
Place into quart sized Ziploc bag.
Place ice and salt in gallon sized bag.
Place smaller bag inside larger bag.
Shake for at least 10 minutes.

At this point, we got tired of shaking, so I put it into the freezer, taking it out every 30 minutes to shake it. We had some left over, so I put the rest into a plastic box - with the ice and salt in a larger sized plastic box. It was much easier to scoop out.

When ice cream is freezing, ice crystals form. The mixture of shaking the ingredients along with the salt, prevent these crystals from forming.

I also wanted to make a vegan version, so I took 1 2/3 cup of coconut milk along with 1/3 cup of Agave Nectar, and 2 tablespoons of Unsweetened Cocoa, mixed it all together, and then followed the rest of the process.

While that was all freezing, my daughter and I worked on her sock doll business. You can order one if you like at Sock Doll Surprise.

Finished with dolls, we went back and checked on the ice cream. The dairy version was oh, so creamy and delicious. The vegan version has not yet been tasted. I will keep you posted.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Truth or Fiction (Reality Check)

Just how many activities can I juggle?

I often tell my kids that I don’t have octopus arms --and I need to remind myself of that now.

It’s been a bad habit of mine, scattering my energies. There are just so many cool things to learn about in life. I want to take it all in! But that’s how I got to where I am today, which is … **ahem** … not an expert in any one subject.

Instead, I know a little about a lot of things.

So as I monitor myself and my natural tendencies, I may be cutting things out here and there (or at least cutting down on them). For now though, I am going to step beyond what I’ve just promised myself and write a long overdue blog post.

You all know how much I love the subject of perception.

At my daughter’s volleyball game the other day, her team was having a little trouble. The ball would fly into the middle of all four girls, and they would all dash over to it, and then stop, letting (or expecting) one of the other girls get it. Since they were all doing it though, the ball would continue onwards to the ground.

A lady sitting next to me said, “They’re afraid of crashing into each other.”

Then another lady, a relative of someone on the opposing team, commented, “They just don’t want the ball.”

Each woman re-stated their belief and then the subject was dropped.

So really, what were those girls doing?

Only they know.

Or do they?

While they might be able to state what they were doing, those impulses may have stemmed from something or somewhere else, even something they are not aware of (for instance, muscle memory from an old injury?).

While I sit and listen to people upholding the righteousness of their opinions, I will be taking it all in and wondering what the reality … um … really is.

Does anyone really know?