It’s Time to PAUSE

On a recent road trip together, Chicken Wrangler Sara and I were discussing an editorial titled “Head Space” by Stephen Orr in the August edition of Better Homes and Garden magazine.

Orr pointed out that everywhere you look people are on their smart phones. Not just in public places, it happens in our homes, at school, and at our places of worship.

He points out our “tiny glass pocket computers” are putting us on information overload and stealing head space we need to think and process.

Everything he said is sad, but true.

His solution is to put the phones down, pause, and give our head space some room to think. He says, “Real thoughts-your own thoughts-will start seeping back in” when you do.

Sara and I agreed our own head space is overloaded and not just from cell phone usage. We decided that Stephen Orr’s advice seemed like a good way to recharge.


We’re taking a PAUSE for the month of August from cell phones and blogging.

We’ll return on September 10 with clearer head space and fresh adventures to share.

In the meantime, you can find six years’ worth of reading material in the archives. Simply scroll down the column on the right and use the site’s search option.


Missed the Memo

A Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

I recently did my annual “work in the flower bed in the heat of summer” job. Some pink flowers we dug up at my father-in-law’s and replanted in our flowerbed prompted it. They add some cheer and color to the front of the house.

At one point we had another flower bed that encircled two pine trees.  There were irises, a rosemary plant and a couple of althea bushes.  Rachel and I worked in that flower bed 2 years ago but then the pine trees died and were cut down and the rosemary didn’t survive our “trimming” so I gave up on it.

Most of it just looks like part of the yard now except for these two amaryllis plants.They apparently did not get the memo that the flower bed was gone and they just keep on blooming.

I received word at the beginning of the month that the school where I teach is closing grades K-12 and will only keep the preschool open.  This has made me very sad.  Seeing these amaryllis every day reminds me that even though things around me are not the same, I can still bloom.


How Your Family Can Eat Healthy All Summer Long

Today I am hosting Brandon Butler, one of our regular guest bloggers. He’s sharing four great ways to encourage healthy eating this summer.

How Your Family Can Eat Healthy All Summer Long

Photo Credit: Pixabay

 Think you don’t have an influence on what your kids eat? Think again.

Research suggests that parents have a significant impact on what kids eat — particularly in their early years. While the best solution is to nip bad habits in the bud, it’s never too late to institute a healthy regimen.

Summer can present multiple temptations, but you can still enjoy the season without sacrificing your family’s health.

  • Be Mindful Of Snacking

Despite the fact that it’s a debatable topic amongst pros in the health industry, mindless (and unhealthy) snacking can upend healthy eating habits. Aside from weight gain and the possibility of consuming an unbalanced diet, other risks include memory and learning problems, increased risk of dementia, inability to control appetite, chemical changes that lead to depression, and the risk of uncontrollable cravings.

However, between road trips and summer activities, craving a snack is not out of the realm of possibilities. With that in mind, opt for healthy alternatives, such as a gut-healthy guac (with yogurt or sauerkraut), chopped veggies and hummus, fresh (or grilled) fruit kabobs, whole grain crackers and string cheese, low-fat yogurt, etc.

  • Create Healthier Versions Of Summer Favorites

Everyone loves a grilled burger and ice cream cone come summertime, but there’s no doubt that the calories can add up quickly when consuming such warm-weather delicacies. Instead of denying yourself—and your family—these culinary pastimes, opt for making healthier alternatives.

If unconventional recipes such as sweet potato salad aren’t your thing, consider small changes, such as swapping out highly-caloric mayonnaise, fatty ground chuck, kettle chips, and full-fat ice cream with lower-calorie versions — but don’t’ be afraid to treat yourself and your loved ones once in a while. Experts agree that occasional splurges prevent a decrease in metabolic rate, prevent binges, and help maintain a healthy lifestyle for the long term.

  • Head To The Farmers Market

Aside from the visual stimuli that are incomparable to a grocery store, taking your kids to the farmers market teaches them what real food is, the importance of seasonality, and what goes into a meal.

Allow your kids to choose specific fruits and vegetables that appeal to them visually and taste-wise so that they can get excited about eating healthy foods. Talk about the origin of the produce, different preparation methods, and how such foods help in their daily activities, from sports to sleeping to functioning at school.

  • Cook Together

Not only is cooking an important life skill every youngster should know, it’s also a fun family activity to do together. Combine the two previous points (healthy food alternatives and the farmers market) to teach your kids how to make healthier preparations of their favorite dishes while speaking to them about the difference between the original and your newfound creations.

Cooking is also a good opportunity to point out the importance of eating whole, quality foods versus goods that come out of a can or a box in the frozen section of the grocery store. Give your kids age-appropriate tasks to complete during the prep and/or cooking process so that they have a sense of satisfaction when the meal is served.

Eating is only half the battle. Staying active with your family is a key component to staying healthy, too. There are copious ways to have fun with the family, including day trips, walking in your neighborhood after dinner, dancing, riding bikes, hiking, strolling around the zoo, going for a picnic, and simply horsing around in the backyard by camping out or playing kick ball.


Words of Wisdom on Dreams-Sandburg


Bottle Tree – A Southern Tradition

“A bottle tree?” Visitors ask when they spot the rebar creation in my flowerbed.

I explain people have been creating these “trees” in Southern states for hundreds of years.

Appalachian folklore says empty glass bottles placed outside near the home can capture roving (usually evil) spirits at night.

Sunlight the next day then destroys the spirit inside or the bottles can be corked then thrown into the river to wash away the evil spirits.

Some hold African slaves carried the bottle tree tradition to Europe and North America in the 17th century when slave trade began. Eudora Welty used this idea in her short story about a slave named Livvie.

She knew that there could be a spell put in trees, and she was familiar from the time she was born with the way bottle trees kept evil spirits from coming into the house — by luring them inside the colored bottles, where they cannot get out again.

Felder Rushing, a southern gardener, believes the tradition goes back much further in history to ancient Egypt. You can read his account here.

Originally, bottles were hung on the bare limbs of Crape Myrtles, a tradition thought to be connected to the myrtle tree’s significance to slaves in the Bible. The crepe myrtle tree appears as a reoccurring image representing freedom and escape from slavery in the Old Testament.

Interesting side note here is that Victorians adapted the bottle tree idea into hollow witch’s balls they placed inside their homes.

Bottle trees also appear in Hoodoo folk magic. Practitioners believe spirits remain among the living for generations and, when captured in the bottles, provide protective powers. Hoodoo bottle trees use only blue bottles to attract ancestral spirits.

The most prized bottle trees today are those with milk-of-magnesia bottles. Since those bottles aren’t produced anymore and the ones you find in flea markets and antiques shops are pricey, most folks settle for blue wine bottles.

Remember the Southern blue porch ceilings. It’s something about the color blue and its ability to discourage the “haints” that attracts us southerners.

Whether you believe all the hocus pocus folklore or not, you will find bottle trees in gardens and yards throughout the United States. If an actual tree isn’t available, you can find numerous styles of iron trees at garden shows and nursery showrooms.

I love my bottle tree! It blooms all year and brightens my garden. And just maybe, it helps keep the haints away.

Want to learn more bottle trees? Check out these sites:


Wednesday Words – Charles Darwin


Answering Writerly Questions

Once people know you are a writer, they ask questions. Usually questions you’ve heard a thousand times before, and you’d think writers would have a quick answer ready.

Instead, most of us appear at a loss for words. Not because we don’t want to talk about our work. It’s just writing doesn’t lend itself to easy or simple answers.

Let me explain what I mean with responses to some frequently asked writerly questions.

  • “How’s the novel coming?”

There’s really no good answer for this one because writing a novel is a long, tedious process. It’s like asking a pregnant woman if she’s had the baby yet.

Lauren B. Davis calls novels wild, unwieldy beasts that resist being tamed. “You have to keep at it day after day, even when it seems like absolutely nothing good is happening,” she says.

On a good day, the answer to this question would be the novel’s coming along. On a not so good day, you don’t want to ask.

  • Are your stories autobiographical?

The short answer is, of course, we writers extract from our lives for the elements of our work. Sometimes we fictionalize and disguise, sometimes we write vivid memoirs and call them fiction.

Fact is everything and anything is inspiration and fodder for a writer’s creative mind, including dinner party conversations and the clothes you’re wearing.

And once that answer soaks in you’ll never look at a writer the same way again.

  • “Are you published?”

This is such a double-edged question.

Any published author has an easy answer. You should expect to be handed a business card with all pertinent information.

But be prepared. This question may also raise an infomercial about everything a writer’s written since learning the alphabet.

On the other hand, for writers who are submitting to editors and agents with little or no results, it can be like salt in an open wound. It’s hard not to be sensitive when you’re working so hard to grab the golden ring.

  • When’s the next book coming out?

Writers love this question. Well, I do, but it’s a complicated response because you have to understand the process.

First, a writer has to complete a draft (writer speed greatly influences draft completion). After which, revisions and edits begin (and there can be many, many of these).  Revisions and edits lead to more rewriting. A cover must be designed, back cover copy and blurbs prepared, and interior formatting done before the book finally goes on sale.The whole process can take years.

The answer depends on where a writer is in this publication process.

I’m not saying you should never ask questions. Quite the contrary, please do. We writers love to discuss our passion. Just understand when our answers aren’t quick and simple.


Paper or Digital?

A Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

One of my goals this summer was to learn to play the organ. My finger injury forced me to put that on hold.

Instead I tackled all the piles of things that appeared during the school year.  This included magazines most of which I had saved because they had recipes I wanted to try.

Along with children’s books and chickens I also collect recipes.  I tear them out of magazines, cut them out of the paper and print them from Facebook.  This has led to piles of papers to go with my piles of magazines and music.

I considered taking pictures of the recipes and storing them digitally on my phone.  There are two problems with this plan:

  1. My phone goes to sleep before I am finished with the recipe. I had this problem with a BBQ ribs recipe I was using on July 4th.  Trying to touch the screen often enough to keep it awake while cooking was more than I could handle.
  2. The phone does not fit on my recipe holder.

So I’ll keep my paper recipes and my transition into the 21st century will have to take a detour.


Words of Wisdom on Dreams-Colin Powell


Do you talk to things that can’t talk back?

I talk to my dogs, my plants, my car, and lots of things that can’t talk back.

It’s anthropomorphizing—a big word that means attaching human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities.

Nicholas Epley, a professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago and anthropomorphism expert says:

“Historically, anthropomorphizing has been treated as a sign of childishness or stupidity, but it’s actually a natural byproduct of the tendency that makes humans uniquely smart on this planet. No other species has this tendency.”

Why and how humans have this ability can’t be fully explained because our brains are so very complicated. Finding human characteristics in inanimate objects signals the brain’s creativity at work.

Anthropomorphizing is also part of our nature. We are social animals. We want to befriend everyone we meet, give them a name, or have them give us their name, and talk to them.

If you saw the movie Castaway, Tom Hanks’ beloved best friend was Wilson, a volleyball with a face. If you haven’t seen it, you should. It’s a great film.

Around my house, my vacuum cleaner is Ugh-glow, my canning strainer Shirley, and the metal art dragon in my yard is Custard. My houseplants have names too and sometimes they even perk up with a pep talk.

My Old English sheepdog Finnegan MacCool and I communicate well. So does his older brother, our Maltese Buster.

I ask them if they’re hungry as I pour the food into their bowls or if they want to go play outside. I tell them to keep the giraffes away from the house when I leave and say “I’ll be back soon” as I walk out the door.

Fellow pet owners will relate. Others think I’ve gone cuckoo.

That’s okay. I take comfort in Epley’s words. Anthropomorphizing is superior intellect and creativity showing forth.

Do you have any inanimate friends you have anthropomorphized?