Monthly Archives: March 2015

Book of the Week- We Were Liars

Book of the Week for March 30 – April 5

We Were Liars

We Were Liars

Why it’s interesting:

I picked this book up because Books and Bars is reading it and it looked good.

Oh. My. Goodness.

I couldn’t put it down. I got it from the library Friday, started it Saturday, and would have finished it the same day, but I was on my anniversary trip with Chris so I had to pay attention to him, at least a little bit. I finished it right after we got home on Sunday.

I can’t tell you anything about it, except it was amazing.

The blurb:

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

Did you like this book? What are you reading right now?

How to make Chili

Chili is souper easy. My husband wanted to learn to make it, so I thought I’d share with everyone. The best thing is, just play with the recipe! Add what you like, and you’ll be winning chili contests in no time.

How to make chili (one dutch oven sized pot)

  1. Are you vegetarian? If so, skip to #3.
  2. Pick your meat. I’ve used chicken, beef, pork and turkey. Cook it. You can use ground or chopped, it doesn’t really matter. You need a pound.
  3. Chop your fresh veggies. You can basically use whatever you like. I like using an onion and a few carrots.
  4. Open your cans: 2 normal sized cans of tomatoes, 2 cans of beans. I use organic diced tomatoes, one can of black and one can of pinot beans. Use whatever beans you like. You can buy tomatoes and beans that have spices in them, if you like it, go for it.
  5. Open your can or box of broth: For poultry and pork, use chicken broth. For beef, use beef broth.
  6. If you want to add quinoa (if you don’t have meat, or you just want more protein) rinse it.
  7. Get our your cumin, coriander and chili powder.

Okay… You ready?

  1. Saute your onions and whatever other veggies you have until the onions are translucent.
  2. Add seasonings. I use about 1/4 cup chili powder, 2 tbsp of cumin, and 1 tbsp of coriander. But precise measurements aren’t necessary.
  3. Add everything else to the pot.
  4. Stir it.
  5. Let it simmer for 20 minutes or all day.
  6. Eat it.
  7. Enjoy.


A life update

Hey Guys,

I haven’t done much of a life update lately, so I thought I’d do one today.

We got our March snowstorm on Sunday night.

2015-03-23 06.51.34

The kids had a great snowball fight before school yesterday.

I have this disorder, where if I’m making soup, I can’t make just one at a time. And my kitchen gets trashed.

2015-03-21 17.58.142015-03-21 17.50.37

My kids’ favorite place is the library. That makes me very happy.

2015-03-21 09.39.40

I’ve started juicing again. Not a full juice fast, but one green juice a day. It’s heavenly.

2015-03-21 08.30.17

Last week and the week before, I participated in the Right Brain Business Summit. I’ve signed up for this group every year since it started (this was the fifth year) and never watched any of the videos. This year, I went ahead and upgraded so I can watch the videos whenever, and I’m so glad I did. It’s been so inspiring. This was my big take-away from SARK’s video last Friday:

2015-03-20 12.58.40

And, finally, I’ve been painting a lot more this year. I’ve got a new series I’m working on, and this is my favorite so far.

2015-03-03 19.54.25

Book of the Week: Not that Kind of Girl

Book of the Week for March 22 – March 28

Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned”

Not that kind of girl

Why it’s interesting:

I had a love/hate relationship with this book while I was listening to it. Lena Dunham herself narrates it, which I’m a big fan of, and I so greatly admire her willingness and ability to put herself out there. These are VERY honest essays, sometimes, to my cultured midwestern brain, too honest. Like, too much information. And I kept thinking What do her parents think?

The stuff she writes about (a lot of it is sex…like, a lot…) is stuff that I wouldn’t find offensive if it was fiction. And it’s not so much that I find it offensive, it just makes me uncomfortable. For her, her family, her friends, etc., which is all kind of stupid. It’s not up to me to decide what she should be comfortable with sharing. (The following epiphany came to me while I was lost in the dog park:) Maybe the boundaries I’ve drawn for how much to share (and the reason I don’t write personal essays or poetry) are stupid and arbitrary. I’ve started to consider how I could branch out and do some more of this type of writing. I don’t foresee myself getting over the terror, but maybe I could use a pen name. Maybe just writing more personal essays and poetry in a journal would be the way to go. I’m not sure. But I’m really glad I read this book (and I’m currently listening to Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking, and getting the SAME message) because I have definitely arbitrarily decided to close off a part of myself, and its good, if terrifying, to think of opening myself up more.

The blurb:

For readers of Nora Ephron, Tina Fey, and David Sedaris, this hilarious, wise, and fiercely candid collection of personal essays establishes Lena Dunham—the acclaimed creator, producer, and star of HBO’s Girls—as one of the most original young talents writing today.

In Not That Kind of Girl, Dunham illuminates the experiences that are part of making one’s way in the world: falling in love, feeling alone, being ten pounds overweight despite eating only health food, having to prove yourself in a room full of men twice your age, finding true love, and most of all, having the guts to believe that your story is one that deserves to be told.

“Take My Virginity (No Really, Take It)” is the account of Dunham’s first time, and how her expectations of sex didn’t quite live up to the actual event (“No floodgate had been opened, no vault of true womanhood unlocked”); “Girls & Jerks” explores her former attraction to less-than-nice guys—guys who had perfected the “dynamic of disrespect” she found so intriguing; “Is This Even Real?” is a meditation on her lifelong obsession with death and dying—what she calls her “genetically predestined morbidity.” And in “I Didn’t F*** Them, but They Yelled at Me,” she imagines the tell-all she will write when she is eighty and past caring, able to reflect honestly on the sexism and condescension she has encountered in Hollywood, where women are “treated like the paper thingies that protect glasses in hotel bathrooms—necessary but infinitely disposable.”

Exuberant, moving, and keenly observed, Not That Kind of Girl is a series of dispatches from the frontlines of the struggle that is growing up. “I’m already predicting my future shame at thinking I had anything to offer you,” Dunham writes. “But if I can take what I’ve learned and make one menial job easier for you, or prevent you from having the kind of sex where you feel you must keep your sneakers on in case you want to run away during the act, then every misstep of mine will have been worthwhile.”

Did you like this book? What are you reading right now?

Book of the Week- Big Little Lies

Book of the Week HTML

Book of the Week for March 16 – March 22

Big Little Lies


Why it’s interesting:

Ann on Goodreads said this in her review, and it fit PERFECTLY:

“Probably the funniest book about murder and domestic abuse I’ll ever read.”

It’s one of those books that you aren’t biting your nails through, wondering what happens next, but you’re so in love with the characters that you will stay up until two a.m. to finish the last 150 pages.

The blurb:

Sometimes it’s the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal. . . .
A murder… . . . a tragic accident… . . . or just parents behaving badly?
What’s indisputable is that someone is dead.

But who did what?

Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.
Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.

Did you like this book? What are you reading right now?

Finding the Ruby Slippers is free…in exchange for an honest review



Have you ever heard of NetGalley? It’s a website for media and bloggers to get free copies of books for media purposes: interviews, reviews, etc. In order to be a member, though, you have to go through an approval process, and then another approval process for each book you want to read. Also, from an author perspective, it’s crazy expensive. Like $399 and up expensive.

Story Cartel is like NetGalley lite– it’s smaller and more indie focused, and A LOT more reasonable. Anyone who likes to read can sign up and get books for free. Authors pay $25 (or less if you buy a package) to have a book listed. The caveat is this: by downloading, you’re agreeing to read and review the book within four weeks. When you submit your review, you’re entered into a contest for prizes like Amazon Gift cards. So it’s really a win-win-win.

At least, I’m hoping so!

I’m running my first Story Cartel promotion right now, giving away copies of Finding the Ruby Slippers through April 3. You’ll have until the 10th to post the review and be entered for their prizes. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Here’s the link— check out my book, and the other books on the site (but read mine first!)



When I can, I spend time on Sundays planning my week. I was able to do that last night, and, this morning, I reviewing the plan and, specifically, my blog post schedule.

And then I realized…I might not blog this week.

I have several deadlines this week and I need to focus on them, and not worry about how to fit in blogging, or spending time finding fun pictures, etc. So this note is to say…

I love you, and, unless I become the bionic woman and whip all this stuff out in record time, I’ll see you next week.

However…I will be sending out a newsletter on Sunday. So if you’re not on my list, sign up now. This will be a good one to be in on…very exciting announcement coming.

Weekly Recipe: Taco Rice Hot Dish

I considered holding off posting this recipe until I had pictures of the amazing goodness that it is, but then I found one serving of it in my freezer and ate it before remembering I wanted pictures, so I’m posting anyway.

Taco Rice Hot dish is one of those family recipes that we make anytime there are a large group of Neumanns (my mom’s family) together. About 80% of us love it. The rest go get a burger.

The name is not so great, and I get it sounds weird, but really, it’s not. It’s more like a thick soup or chili than a hot dish, and it has approximately the same consistency of chili with rice. It’s really amazing.

Taco Rice Hot Dish

8 Servings


  • 2 lbs ground beef (to make veg/vegan, substitute 1 cup quinoa)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 12 oz tomato paste
  • 16 oz tomato sauce
  • 6 cups water
  • 4 Tablespoons sugar
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Oregano
  • 2 teaspoons Chili Powder
  • 2 teaspoons Salt
  • 2 teaspoons Cumin
  • 3/4 cup Rice (I use brown)

Topping Ideas:

  • Corn Chips
  • Lettuce
  • Tomato
  • Onion
  • Green pepper
  • Avocado
  • Hot sauce
  • Ranch dressing
  • Sour Cream
  • Shredded cheese


  1. Brown beef and onion, (or cook quinoa with onion) drain.
  2. Add everything else but the rice, simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Add rice. Simmer until rice is done.
  4. Serve with whatever toppings you like.

**This can be made in the crockpot too! If using quinoa, I omit the onion entirely and just throw everything in. If using meat, brown with onion, then throw everything in. Cook on low 6ish hours, high for about 4.**

Weekend Inspiration: Writing Prompts

I feel like I’ve written about writing prompts before, but I’m trying to get this post and another out before I go to yoga this morning.

Let me just break off for a moment and say: I NEVER thought I would like hot yoga. Ever. I hate being hot. I hate sweating. I hate that “Oh my gosh I can’t breathe it’s too hot I’m suffocating” feeling. HOWEVER, I don’t know why I tried it, but I did. Hot Vinyassa Flow. And it is AWESOME. I really don’t “feel” the heat in the same way I did, say, doing the Music City Triathlon in 2010 when the heat index was 108. I get out and want water, absolutley, but I don’t feel like I’m going to puke.

(Okay, that’s a lie. Sometimes, when we get really into it, I do feel like I’m going to puke. Which is why I only drink tea and water before class.)

Anyway…Hot yoga. Don’t knock it ’till you try it.

Back to the prompts!

I’m a huge fan of writing prompts. All of my short stories started out from prompts. (None of my novels so far, but that’s not to say it won’t happen.) I’ve used prompts differently over the years, but the biggest was when I didn’t have a daily writing practice, I would always start out with a prompt. Read it, 15 minutes of free writing on the prompts, and then get to work on whatever project it was I was doing at the time (probably Home. Seems like it’s always Home.) I’ve got several books of prompts and have used various sites over the years, but lately I’ve been using a lot from Charlotte Rains Dixon’s Tumblr: Inventive Writing Prompts. Full disclosure, I know and love Charlotte, she’s mentored me through The Writer’s Loft/MTSU Write program and I’ve read her books and she’s just plain awesome. Which is why I highly recommend you check out the blog. Grab a prompt, and write. If nothing else, it will transport you for a good 10-15 minutes…or however long you decide to let the words flow.

A note about using prompts:

First, there are no real rules here. These are just my suggestions.

  1. Set a timer. It’s like meditation. Start with 5 minutes or so and work your way up.
  2. Write long hand or on the computer. It really doesn’t matter.
  3. Block all distractions. (Okay, so this one really is a rule.) If you’re on the computer, shut off your internet. If you’re long hand, shut off your phone. It’s only 5-15 minutes. You can do it.
  4. Don’t sensor yourself. Most of the writing you do with prompts will never see the light of day. It’s just an exercise. Just let the words flow out of your hand/fingers.
  5. If you have a work-in-progress, by all means, use the characters if it makes sense. If it doesn’t, don’t.
  6. Let yourself chose between two or three prompts, but don’t spend any more than a minute or two deciding. I’ve quite effectively wasted my writing time trying to decide which prompt to start with. Just pick one and go.
  7. Never, never, never, never, never for the love of all that’s holy never give your unpolished prompt writing to a critique group. First of all, it’s not fair to you. You’re not going to get good feedback on an unedited piece. Second, it’s not a good use of your partners’ time. If you like what you’ve written, awesome. Polish that baby up and distribute it. If you give out the raw meat, you’re going to lose the beauty in the unedited process because you’re going to get self-conscious.
  8. JUST DO IT. (TM) Nike
Photo by Captain Crunch

Book of the Week: The Night Circus

Book of the Week for March 2 – March 8

The Night Circus

The Night Circus

Why it’s interesting:

I read this book a couple years ago and it has remained on my “To Read Again” list ever since. (Occassionally it’s also on my “To Read Again” shelf, but, often, it’s loaned out.

First of all, from a reader perspective, this is one of those books that sucks you so deeply into this other world so quickly that you forget you have a life outside of it.

Then, from a writer’s perspective, HOLY COW. I mean…HOW???? The chronology of the book is so messed up. And it works. SO WELL! And Morgenstern does alternating point-of-view in a completely new way. The reason I want to read it again is to pick apart the seams and see how she made this thing. I want to study it with a microscope and an X-ray. But it’s so hard to do because it’s SO GOOD you just get sucked into it and forget that you’re trying to study.

(I’d imagine that’s what life is like for people who want to make movies.)

The blurb:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.

Also exciting, when I was googling the info I needed for this post, the first hit was for the movie. Which means it’s coming. So read the book now before it’s too popular to get from the library again!