8 11, 2013

Flexibility and Perseverance – Miller Farm Friday

By |2013-11-08T06:00:14-06:00November 8th, 2013|Miller Farm Friday|0 Comments

A Guest Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

As I was standing at the kitchen window yesterday and noticed a lizard on the ladder outside the window.  This is a common sight however, this particularly lizard seemed to be trying to eat something I couldn’t identify.

lizard on ladderUpon closer look, I discovered part of the lizard’s skin hanging from its nose. It had shed and was trying to get the last remaining dead skin off its nose.

Fascinated, I watched it rub its head against the ladder repeatedly to dislodge the dead skin with no luck.

I was tempted to go outside and “help” the lizard but I knew it would run away and I would not get to watch this process.

I began to appreciate the lizard’s persistence. It also made me glad I am not a lizard.  I’m not sure I have the perseverance to shed my skin on a regular basis.

Next, it used its hind foot to scratch the skin off.  This was so remarkable that I had to take a picture. lizard foot

It amazed me that the lizard could move its leg that way.

I certainly cannot.

I do good to get my legs to walk consistently. Scratching my head with my foot is totally out of the question.

All of which led me to think about flexibility in general. While I may not be physically flexible, I have to be flexible in other ways.

For example, I plan my menu for the week and grocery shop on Mondays.  A couple of weeks ago, my husband came home from the doctor with a very specific diet to follow.  Very little of what I had purchased and planned to fix for the week worked with the new diet.

Time to be flexible 🙂

Teaching requires lots of flexibility. I plan to play a circle game with the preschool class and they come in so wiggly that getting them to just sit down is an impossible challenge.

It’s time for a new plan.

The class right after preschool is the high school class. I go from wearing silly hats and using puppets to teaching on Renaissance music and playing ukulele.

How’s that for flexibility? Sometimes I feel like a rubber band.

At least I don’t have to use my foot to get dead skin off my nose.

6 11, 2013

MENSA – One Word Wednesday

By |2013-11-06T06:00:30-06:00November 6th, 2013|one word Wednesday|0 Comments

We recently spent an evening with my son’s family matching wits with puzzles from a fun book titled Match Wits with Mensa.

Our family does enjoy mental challenges and besting one another in sports, games, and jokes, but we’re not Mensa members.

175px-Mensa_logo_svgThe word mensa means “table” in Latin, and is symbolized in the organization’s logo, which depicts the round-table nature of the organization and the coming together of equals

Mensa began in Oxford, England, in 1946 by Roland Berrill, an Australian barrister, and Dr. Lancelot Ware, a British scientist and lawyer. Their idea was to form a group for people with high IQs that would be non-political and free from all social distinctions.

Mensa has grown to an international organization with more than 110,000 members in fifty national groups.

The largest U.S. Mensa group is in the Chicago area. Every year around Halloween, the group hosts a costume party for which many members create pun-based costumes. Check out the American Mensa website here: http://www.us.mensa.org/

Mensa’s purposes:

  1. to identify and to foster human intelligence for the benefit of humanity
  2. to encourage research into the nature, characteristics, and uses of intelligence
  3. to provide a stimulating intellectual and social environment for its members

The organization also provides programs for gifted children, literacy, and scholarships.

Sometimes, I think we forget to challenge and train our brains, which we should do–especially as we age. Brain cells do die off, you know.

You don’t have to be a Mensa member to be intellectually stimulated. You can build brainpower with:

  • Puzzles from Matching Wits with Mensa like we did. Click to purchase:

mensa bookcover

  • Jigsaw or crossword puzzles
  • Sudoku
  • Word games like Scrabble
  • Trivia mind games

There are oodles of books available as well as on-line sites like Brainbashers or Mensa’s game page.

When I taught school, I began each class with a thinking warm-up—puzzles, logic problems, and review questions from lessons. The puzzles and thinking problems were by far the students’ favorite.

YOUR TURN: Try these brain warm-ups and put your answers in a comment.

The first commenter – who gets all three brain warm-ups correct – will receive a free copy of Love in the Morning Calm.

EXAMPLE:  7 D in a W = 7 days in a week 

  1. W of the AW
  2. S on a S S
  3. 64 on a C
4 11, 2013

4 Triggers to Jumpstart your Writing Time

By |2013-11-04T06:00:53-06:00November 4th, 2013|Make Me Think Monday|1 Comment

Another November has rolled around, which means…

Daylight saving time started unless you live in Arizona, Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Did you remember to set your clocks back?

?????????We did. Unfortunately, my internal clock didn’t get the message. I’m up at 4 a.m. because my body knows it’s really 5 a.m.

November is also National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Currently 258,733 novelist have officially signed on to complete a first draft novel with the goal of 50,000 words by the end of the month.

Not to be outdone, NON-fiction writers have their own challenge, Write Nonfiction in November (WNFIN), also known as National Nonfiction Writing Month (NaNonFiWriMo)

Other writers become caught up in the spirit of the writing challenge and commit to penning 50,000 words this month through their writing groups.

Flipping the calendar to November is the signal that the holidays are fast approaching. One look at a Christmas Countdown clock and my pulse accelerates in anticipation and dread.

Fifty days until Christmas? Yikes. I’m so far behind.

If you celebrate Hanukah, your clicking counter is less. Hanukah is much closer than you think. For the first time since 1888, Thanksgiving and Hanukah converge. You’re looking at less than twenty-four days to be ready! Click here for an accurate count.

Holidays can disrupt your regular writing schedule and stifle your  muse. Participating in the NaNoWriMo challenge may be all you need to motivate yourself.

On the other hand, even if you’ve joined NaNoWriMo and set a goal, you may need to give yourself a nudge to get into writing on some days.

With so many holiday preparations pulling for my time and energy, I find when I do notch out writing time I need to psych my muse into cooperating.

Four methods work to put my brain in writing mode.

1.  Establish a ritual  – a trigger to use right before you begin a writing session. Something that will coax your brain into the writing routine and you won’t have to make a decision on whether or not to write. You just will.

A trigger might be moving into a special area to write or sipping a cup of tea.

toby 2I brew a cup of Irish breakfast tea or grab a water bottle and go into my office.

Naturally, Toby follows and positions his very large body in the kneehole of my desk. That’s a trigger for me, but not one you can share.


2.   Begin a writing session by quieting your mind.
Tis the season to clutter our minds with lists and busyness. Pause. Do some journaling or read a devotional to clear your mind before you start writing.

3.  Engage in physical activity.
I’m not suggesting a full workout at the gym here. Only a few minutes of sun salutation and deep breathing yoga exercises or ten minutes of calisthenics to jumpstart the endorphins that lead to creativity.

A  walk can work as well. That’s what I do. Toby and Buster love when I hook up those leases and walk to work through plot issues or jog my creativity.

4. Involve your senses.
Play soft music or light a scented candle, even a dish of scented soap on your desk can be a trigger for the muse.

YOUR TURN: Do you have a trigger that puts you in writing mode?

1 11, 2013

Wandering Hen – Miller Farm Friday

By |2013-11-01T06:00:24-05:00November 1st, 2013|Miller Farm Friday|0 Comments

A Guest Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

One afternoon this week, I heard a great ruckus out back.

I ignored the barking dogs and cackling chickens for a while but then decided to see what was happening and looked out the kitchen window and saw Sadie (one of the dachshunds) barking at the front of the shed. The chickens were all standing in the middle of the chicken yard fussing at her.

That was all well and good until I heard Bella barking from an undisclosed location. This was not good because she has recently taken to going under the shed .

I headed outside to find her.

Before I saw Bella, I spotted the infamous white hen under the shed.

I’m not sure how she got there as we have put chicken wire around the bottom facing the chicken yard to prevent this.

I figured Bella was approaching from the other side of the shed so the race was on – who would get to the hen first, me or Bella?


I quickly stepped into the chicken yard and reached over the chicken wire for the wayward hen. Success!

Chicken Wrangler 1, Bella 0.

Next I had to coax Bella out from under the shed – a much harder job.

When I went out later to check eggs this is what I found:


That silly chicken had laid an egg under the shed. This is the same chicken who regularly lays eggs in the abandoned beehive.

Fortunately, the chicken wire is only about two feet high so I was able to reach over it and under the shed to retrieve the egg.

Today when I went to check eggs the white chicken was actually in the nest box. I wish I’d had my camera!

I reached under hoping to find an egg but no luck. Oh well, at least she knows where the nest box is now.

29 10, 2013

Ideas for Romancing Halloween

By |2015-10-22T18:47:29-05:00October 29th, 2013|one word Wednesday|1 Comment

 On Monday, we talked about the origins of Halloween and the legend behind why we carve pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns. Today let’s enjoy some vintage Halloween cards and explore folktales that help young women identify their future husbands.chooseRomance writers should love these folktales and see potential romance stories.

According to folklore, young women have tossed apple-peels over their shoulders on Halloween, hoping that the peels would fall on the floor in the shape of their future husbands’ initials.valentine couple

 Or, peered at egg yolks floating in a bowl of water to learn about their futures.

Or, stood in front of mirrors in darkened rooms, holding candles and looking over their shoulders for their husbands’ faces.

Bobbing-for-ApplesOne legend claims the first successful apple-bobber will be the first to marry.

 Another suggests that matchmaking Irish cooks bury a ring in her mashed potatoes on Halloween night, hoping to bring true love to the diner who finds it.

 Scottish fortune-tellers recommend eligible young women name a hazelnut for each of her suitors and then toss the nuts into the fireplace on Halloween night. The nut that burns to ashes rather than popping or exploding, represents the girl’s future husband.

 In a confusing version of this same tale, the opposite was true: The nut that burns symbolized a love that would not last.

Another option with food suggest eating a sugary concoction made out of walnuts, hazelnuts, and nutmeg before bed on Halloween night can bring dreams about a future husband.

hugBut what if you’ve already found your mate, you say. hugging on jack-o-lantern

Then try some of these ideas for romancing your Halloween night.

~~Decorate your house for a Halloween evening. Let flickering candlelight set the mood. Place gourds or pumpkins hollowed out and filled with orange and purple flowers.

~~Prepare a warm and intimate Halloween dinner. How about a delicious pumpkin soup, followed by a herb roasted chicken with mashed potatoes – maybe you’ll find a ring inside –, and, of course, dark chocolate for dessert? Click here for the chicken recipe. And here for a wonderful pumpkin soup recipe from the Pioneer Woman.

~~Cuddle together on the couch and watch a scary movie. Frightening moments give you the perfect excuse to snuggle. Check out IMdb’s list of the 60 Scariest Movies if you need ideas.

~~Plan midnight picnic with finger foods. Head into the woods –  near a graveyard if you want to be spooky. If you want to be warm and safe, picnic in front of a roaring fire or in the middle of your bed.

~~Enjoy a hayride if you live in a rural area. Nothing better than burrowing beneath a warm blanket and watching the night sky to stimulate romance.

~~Book a bed and breakfast in a rural, isolated area for a romantic escape.

~~Attend a Halloween costume party BUT don’t tell each other about your costume and arrive separately. Pretend you’re truly strangers meeting for the first time.

~~Head out to a local haunted house for a scary date night holding each other’s hands.

Wishing you a fun-filled, romantic Halloween evening.kiss

28 10, 2013

Why do we carve pumpkins on Halloween?

By |2017-10-05T09:45:17-05:00October 28th, 2013|Make Me Think Monday|5 Comments

This week is a time of celebration and superstition and tradition. It’s Halloween.vintage halloween postcardBut do you know why we celebrate Halloween?

The origins date back to The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in Ireland, United Kingdom, and France.

November 1st was the beginning of the Celtic New Year. The Celts believed the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred the night before their New Year. On  October 31st, the New Year’s Eve, they celebrated the festival of Samhain. People would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts.

By the eighth century the traditions evolved when Pope Gregory III designated November 1st as a time to honor all saints and martyrs, incorporating some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before became known as All Hallows’ Eve and later Halloween.

Through the years, Halloween has become the secular, community-based event we know today.

halloween-decorThat’s the history of the holiday, but the Irish in me loves finding the story behind the holiday traditions.

Like the legend behind making jack-o’-lanterns for Halloween decorations, which originated from an Irish myth about an old drunk called “Stingy Jack.”

Can you guess why he was called stingy? Of course, because he never wanted to pay for his drinks.

Jack and devilAs the story goes, Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him.

When it came time to pay, true to his name, Stingy Jack talked the Devil into turning himself into a coin he could use to pay for their drinks… And then the story gets interesting.

Jack dies. But, because he made deals with the devil, God won’t let him into heaven. Because of his deal with the devil not to take his soul, he can’t go to hell.

stingy-jack-character-designSo Jack roams the dark Halloween night with a burning coal in a carved-out turnip. The Irish refer to his ghostly figure as “Jack of the Lantern,” or “Jack O’Lantern.”

Read the full story here or watch to the fun, spooky video below:

On All Hallow’s Eve, the Irish hollow out turnips, rutabagas, gourds, potatoes and beets then place a light inside to keep Stingy Jack away and ward off evil spirits.

Turnip Jack-o-lanterns changed to pumpkin jack-o-lanterns when waves of Irish immigrants came to America in the 1800’s to escape the Potato Famine. They quickly discovered that pumpkins were bigger and easier to carve out.

And thus begin our tradition of carving and lighting pumpkins for Halloween.pumpkin-carve-24Oh, and one more tidbit of information about jack-o-lanterns. This advice comes from the antique dealer me, not the Irish storyteller.Room-decor-for-HalloweenBe careful where you display your cleverly carved jack-o-lanterns. The base of a pumpkin can stay moist for days and will rot and stain wood or even marble. Put either foil or a dish with a raised edge under any pumpkins or gourds you display this fall.

I’ve stained more than one old piece of furniture decorating for fall with gourds and tiny pumpkins.

YOUR TURN: Have fun carving your pumpkin now that you know the story behind the tradition.

25 10, 2013

Dog Hotel – Miller Farm Friday

By |2013-10-25T06:20:12-05:00October 25th, 2013|Miller Farm Friday|0 Comments

A Guest Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

We had two extra dogs last weekend bringing our total to 6.  One of them is a frequent visitor.  He is one of the puppies Sadie had 5 years ago.  A coworker of Brian’s bought the puppy and named him Miller.  Whenever they leave town, the new owners book a room for Miller at the Miller Dog Hotel.

Miller now has a friend living with him named Jengo. Jengo is not a dachshund, but we allowed him to stay anyway.


The guests arrived at about 10:30 on Saturday morning.  Fortunately Rachel was at the house to help me introduce Jengo to the rest of our pack.  Miller considers himself one of us so no introductions were necessary for him.

When Rachel and I prepared to leave, poor Jengo was being chased from one end of the kitchen to the other. We tried putting three dogs in kennels, Tucker in the bedroom and leaving Jengo and Miller out in the kitchen.

Miller, who considers Miller Farm his second home, was not thrilled to be sharing kitchen space with Jengo. So for Jengo’s protection, I put a leash on him and loaded him into the car.

We headed to Conroe to meet the high school band. The plan was for me to relieve Beekeeper Brian, who had travelled with the bus full of teenagers since 5:30 that morning. He was to take Jengo home, and I would ride the bus with the kids.

That was the plan, but when lightning started, the band reloaded the bus before I could get there. Jengo and I turned around and headed for Bryan High School to meet the busses and bring Brian home.

After we got home, the rest of the afternoon went smoothly.

Not so for the night.

Tucker usually sleeps on our bed but when Miller visits, he sleeps under the bed. This time, Jengo also got to sleep on the bed. Tucker didn’t want to miss the fun and joined us. (If we are going to do this often, we will need a bigger bed.)

Did I mention that Jengo is a puppy? He got up in the middle of the night and pooped in the house, which meant I also had to get up in the middle of the night to clean up and then feed him. After Jengo ate, he wanted to play.

Reminded me why I had children when I was younger.  I’m getting too old to stay up all night.

I thought about driving him around in the car to put him to sleep only I was afraid it would put me to sleep. We stayed at home and I laid on the couch and tried to convince Jengo to go to sleep. I gave him a rawhide bone to chew, but he tried to bury it in the newspapers.

At 6 am, I gave up and started the coffee. Then I unloaded the dishwasher and started breakfast.  Jengo helped:


By the time he left on Monday afternoon, Jengo was right at home. This is a good thing as I imagine he will be returning the next time his owners leave town.

That is unless there is “No Vacancy” at the Miller Dog Hotel.

23 10, 2013

THE SOUTH – One Word Wednesday

By |2013-10-23T06:45:26-05:00October 23rd, 2013|one word Wednesday|0 Comments

Below are some fascinating facts I uncovered while doing research for a new series where the heroines will be southern belles.

As defined by the United States Census Bureau, the Southern region of the United States includes sixteen states


Other terms associated with THE SOUTH:

Old South includes the slave states of 1776 (Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina) and/or all the slave states before 1860 (Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas)

New South used to differentiate states of the slavery-based plantation system during the antebellum period with southern states since 1877. Includes Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Delaware

Deep South: those states and areas where things most often thought of as “Southern” exist in their most concentrated form. Includes Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina

Dixie: most commonly associated with the eleven states of the Old Confederacy, which were South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina.

I still haven’t decided exactly which southern state to use as the setting, but you can be sure I will be using these delightful characteristics of THE SOUTH throughout the series.

Jody's plaque2

YOUR TURN: Did I uncover any facts you didn’t know about THE SOUTH?

21 10, 2013

Today’s the day to clean your virtual desktop. Are you?

By |2013-10-21T06:57:58-05:00October 21st, 2013|Make Me Think Monday|0 Comments

Personal Computer Museum has designated the third Monday in October as the day to…


According to Forrester Research, there are one BILLION computers in use in the world today.

If every one of those computers has an average of 10 unused icons on their desktop, that represents a staggering 169 acres of wasted virtual space!

As you can see, unused icons on my desktop hide half my grandchildren.

desktopI guessing your desktop probably looks a lot like mine.

Or worse.

Unused icons not only clutter, they can show down your computer.

Whether you placed the icons on the desktop for quick access to files or the icons came through program installations, the clutter can be counterproductive. You lose time searching for the icon you want.

So how do we clean our virtual desktop, reclaim the wasted space, and banish the unused icons?

Tina Sieber offers 7 Simple Steps To An Awesome Minimalist Desktop

There’s also a Facebook event you can join. You’ll find lots of advice.

YOUR TURN: Join me today and let’s clean our desktops.

18 10, 2013

Chicken Coop Limbo – Miller Farm Friday

By |2013-10-18T06:58:33-05:00October 18th, 2013|Friday on the Miller Farm, Miller Farm Friday|0 Comments

A Guest Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

I’m afraid we have a problem with inbreeding in our chicken flock.

This latest group of recently hatched chickens seems particularly dumb. They do not appear to know the function of the nest boxes.

I thought at first the “hen in a hive” was boycotting the nest boxes and laying her eggs in the abandoned beehive.

However, I am finding eggs in a variety of places. For example, on top of the nest boxes.

on top nest boxesNo problem.

Out in the yard. Again no problem.eggs in yard

However, when they lay their eggs under the quail cage in the quail coop there is a problem.

quail rail

Eggs on the wood rail require some major contortions in order to collect.

The wood rail going across the coop is where the chickens roost (and poop) at night.  I try very hard not to let any part of me or my clothing touch this rail.  (See previous post on “Fully dressed”)

I can reach over the rail, arching my back as high as possible and stand on my tiptoes and hope I don’t lose my balance.

Or I can crouch low and reach under the rail. The latter method reminds me of a dance – the Limbo.

Collecting eggs these days I’ve decided Miller Farm has its own dance –

the Chicken Coop Limbo.

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