An Official Chicken Soup for the Soul Contributor

Wow. Chicken Soup for the Soul: Home Sweet Home: 101 Stories about Hearth, Happiness, and Hard Work is officially out. It was released last week. Unfortunately, health concerns prevented me from celebrating the release accordingly.

However, today I have my mind wrapped around all that and am excited to shout that it’s out. I was tickled to find my story, “The Bubble Bath,” truly was in it when I received my copies about a month ago. (It was one of those things where I had to see it to believe it and pinch myself a couple of times to realize it was true.)

Even cooler was the little badge they created and sent out to Chicken Soup contributors. I’m very proud to display that on my site. I tried and tried for years to become one. Never guessed it’d be this humble little story that would do it.

Contributor Badge

But it did, and I’m so happy. A very exciting bright spot in what’s shaping up to be an eventful 2014.

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Fun with Watermelon

For NALTA (Nashville Area Ladies Tennis Association) matches it is the home team’s responsibility to provide snacks and refreshments. Since eating is probably my most favorite past time ever, I look very forward to Thursdays during NALTA season.

The women on my team are so creative and wonderful food preparers. (Actually, I’ve been on my current team 2 seasons now. But even the ladies on my old team were talented in the kitchen.) So my taste buds have delighted in many scrumptious new-to-me flavors and treats. Everything from baked breads, muffins and cookies to creative cheese dips.

They’re also conscious of their presentation. (Whereas I just toss things on a plate and go.)

However, there is something about the visual presentation enhancing the taste enjoyment somehow. They haven’t meant to, but the tennis ladies, whether on my team or not, have made me come to appreciate this.

So for a recent tennis gathering (it was actually a USTA brunch, not a NALTA shin dig), I decided to try to be a little more creative. I’d seen something either on Facebook or Pinterest for goat cheese and mint topped watermelon. I thought that sounded like something the tennis ladies would like, so I decided to give it a shot.

It was easy! And turned out yummy and nice looking!

MINT GOAT CHEESE WATERMELON BITES

Ingredients

  • Watermelon – I bought slices
  • Goat Cheese
  • Mint
  • Cheese and Fruit Shaped cutter – I used a flower-shaped one.
  • Something to cut or shape the goat cheese into little balls – I tried to use a melon baller, but it was too big. Then I ended up using something else I found in my drawers that I don’t even know what it’s really for or what it’s called, but it worked. I sliced the goat cheese then punched out little slabs to put on the watermelon.
  • Toothpicks – optional

Steps

  • Cut the watermelon into shapes.
  • Top with mint sprigs
  • Top that with goat cheese (I did mine backwards, as you’ll see in the pics. It would’ve looked even prettier with the mint on the bottom.)
  • Hold it together with a toothpick, if desired.  (I took the picture pre-the toothpicks, which I opted to use because I was transporting my creation and thought it would help it hold together better. It did. Also, it made it easier for the girls to eat.)
Goat Cheese and Mint-Topped Watermelon

Goat Cheese and Mint-Topped Watermelon

Variations

I think a blueberry with the mint and goat cheese would be amazing. One of my tennis teammates suggested basil in place of the mint might also be nice.

A few more things to experiment with…

CUCUMBER WATERMELON SALAD

I had some extra watermelon that I decided to pair with cucumber and feta to create a salad. This was just a concoction I decided to experiment with.

It wasn’t bad, but would need some tweaking. Here’s what I used…

Ingredients

  • Watermelon chunks
  • Cucumber chopped into quarters
  • Feta cheese – crumbled
  • Lime juice
  • Cilantro paste

Steps

I just combined everything and chilled for a bit before serving.

Cucumber Watermelon Salad

Cucumber Watermelon Salad

It was just okay. I think maybe a drizzle of olive oil and fresh cilantro with the lime juice might’ve given it a better flavor.

It’s one I’m definitely going to be experimenting with and trying again.

Do you have any fun watermelon recipes? I’d love to hear them!

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No Orcs, Just Daffies, Please

Last week at this time the local weather people said we had a chance of flurries for the next day. I had a tennis match at 9:30 a.m. last Tuesday. Sure enough, woke up to light flurries.

After our match, my tennis partner, Susan, and I decided to go out to lunch. It was sunny when we left the rec center. While we were sitting in First Watch the light outside started to change. It grew darker as the clouds thickened.

Susan exclaimed, “Oh wow! Look at that snow coming down!”

I looked out the window to see what the weathermen and women would later that night refer to as a “snow squall.” Here’s the scene at the shopping center we were at. My windshield got covered in less than 10 minutes.

Petco Snow SquallSnowy windshieldThe crazy thing about the weather last Tuesday was we’d get these “snow squalls” for anywhere between five and thirty minutes, then it’d clear up, get sunny, the snow that had just accumulated would melt, and then it’d repeat. Wild!

I thought about that on my walk today, which I took in one of my favorite places: Lenox Village.

I don’t know why I like it over there so much, but I do. Part of it is because I do a nice, flat loop. (The neighborhood I live in doesn’t always inspire me to walk due to all the hills. I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a wee bit lazy when it comes to climbing hills.)

I also like the architecture and the vibe in general. There’s even a mystery bookstore I pass on my strolls.

But perhaps the streets have something to do with it? I mean, they have cool names. The main one I walk on is Sunnywood. How can you not feel good walking on street with such a happy sounding name?

But there’s also Bienville, Sugar Plum Road, and, my personal favorites, Tolkien and Hobbit Lanes.

Today I switched up my loop and turned left on Sugar Plum Road rather than following Sunnywood all the way down and wrapping around to come back up Sugar Plum. That’s when I saw this lovely creek I always pass from a different perspective.

I’m glad I did. It’s pretty from the way I normally see it too, but today I noticed the daffies (daffodils) in a new light. It was such a beautiful day I decided to have some fun snapping pics to capture a place that always gets my Muse’s juices flowing.

Sunnywood DriveLenox Village townhomesLenox Village HouseHobbit LaneBienville DriveTolkien LaneShoppes on Sunnywood SignMysteries & MoreSugar Plum RoadDaffies by a CreekExpanded view of creekside daffies

 

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It’s official!

Today I got an email from the editor of the Chicken Soup for the Soul: Home Sweet Home book that my story, “The Bubble Bath”, was officially selected to appear in it!

Congratulations! Your story The Bubble Bath   has been selected to appear in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Home Sweet Home. The book is now on its way to the printer! Thank you for helping us share happiness, inspiration, and wellness in this book by allowing us to publish your story.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Home Sweet Home is scheduled to be available in bookstores May 27, 2014.

I’m over the moon!

I’ve been trying to get something accepted there for years. Finally did it.

Even better, I originally wrote that story for the Washington Centerville Erma Bombeck contest. It didn’t win, place or show, but I thought it was a pretty funny story. And a good one. I wasn’t going to give up on it. I just needed to find it the right home.

Done.

Just another example that you really do have to have a “never give up, never surrender” attitude in this writing business, a.k.a. persistent tenacity.

And that, my friends, is one thing I excel at. I’m definitely a stubborn little monkey! (Mostly that’s not a good thing, but there are times, like now, when I’m thankful for my stubborn streak.)

 

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What a Turkey!

In February, Wayne and I took a vacation. On our way home from the airport we stopped at a light. I looked to my right and was taken aback to see a turkey on the side of the road.

I quickly whipped out my phone and snapped a pic. It’s not unusual for us to see turkeys by our house. We don’t live in the country exactly, but it’s more rural than urban for sure.

However, we were on Harding, a fairly busy road not far from the airport. Not a usual place to see a turkey. And not one looking so alert just hanging out on the side of the road.

Dead End Turkey

Dead End Turkey

It wasn’t until I posted the photo on Facebook that I realized there was a Dead End sign in the background. Oh the jokes that could be made about this.

I keep trying to concoct one that involves the turkey not knowing why the chicken crossed the road, but the turkey did it to avoid the Dead End.

Lame. I know. I can’t seem to come up with the perfect punchline.

Oh well, that’s not what’s funniest. What is is that a couple of days later I was watching the news and guess what they had as one of the stories? This doggone turkey!

Which was good. Of course as we drove away I was worried the turkey was going to get hit. You might be able to tell from the picture that dusk was falling. Plus it was rush hour. I was afraid someone rushing home from work might not see the turkey and cream him.

It was a relief to see him on the news. Apparently he’s been hanging out on that corner for a while.

I had to take Wayne to the airport the other day. I looked for the turkey but didn’t see him.

Maybe he got his 15 minutes of fame and moved along?

 

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Late Winter Ice Storm Ghost Trees

In the pre-dawn hours this past Monday, Middle Tennessee experienced a late winter snow and ice storm.

Ah, the winter of 2014. Will it ever end?

We’ve had our fair share of the Polar Vortex-induced frigid weather here in Nashville this year, too. However, we haven’t had the kind of snow or ice people in northern states have endured. (Or Atlanta or Birmingham’s bad traffic-stopping icy conditions from a month ago. Boy did we dodge a bullet then!)

I can deal with the cold. I have many warm and comfy sweaters, plenty of snuggly throws on the couches, and a cupboard stocked with a variety of teas.

I actually like a little snow. I do not like what it does to the roads and prefer when it falls overnight, treats us to slow-starting mornings, then the sun comes out, warms things up, and melts ice from pavements so driving isn’t treacherous.

However, I like how snow days slow the world down.

Such days also seems to fuel my creativity. I write better and have more enthusiasm for it. Maybe because I know I can’t do much else outside and I have no excuse not to sit behind the computer and bang away at my keyboard.

Plus, few things bring my heart the kind of peace that looking out the window and seeing snow do.

Since we really haven’t had any measurable accumulation where I live in Tennessee this year, I’d also forgotten the beautiful transformation snow bequeaths upon the landscape.

Well, Mother Nature treated us to a very pretty sight this week. No one really went much of anywhere Monday. The governor declared a State of Emergency and urged motorists to stay off the road. I happily obliged.

But Tuesday road conditions had improved dramatically. I ventured out for a tennis game at the Y and found myself driving along breathtakingly beautiful streets.

The trees were all frosted in ice. The hillsides looked surreal. Ghostly. Haunting. It was magnificent!

I  tried to capture the essence, but, try as I might, I’m a terrible photographer. (Didn’t help that I was trying to take pictures as I was driving. I wasn’t joking about #39 on my 100 Things About Me post. Thankfully avoided any accidents though.)

Still, I tried to enhance some of the better ones I took using the Camera+ app on my iPhone.

Here’s the result.

Frosty Trees

This is a scenic road anyway I often find myself on, but when it’s lined by frosty trees? Whoa! (This pic does not do it justice. Should’ve stopped to try and get a better one.)

Rural Winter's Kiss

Rural Winter’s Kiss

Frosted Trees and an Old House

Frosted Trees and an Old House

Ice-laden dancing evergreens

Ice-laden dancing evergreens (They’re bent under the weight of the ice, but doesn’t it look like they’re bowing about to do a waltz or something?)

Rural Rear View

Rural Rear View (This was snapped as I zoomed by and hoped I got something. I didn’t quite capture the winter scene I’d wanted, but I liked how the road looked in the rear view and thought it made for a neat pic.)

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Anecdote Published in Woman’s World

I’m very excited to share that a submission I sent in to the “Circle of Kindness” section of Woman’s World was published in the March 10, 2014 issue, which went on sale yesterday.

WW Mar 10, 2014Circle of KindnessI’ll never forget the day that kind stranger bought my hot chocolate. There’s a little more to the story, though.

I kept seeing him eyeing me in his rear view mirror. I was touching Murph’s collar, which now hangs from my rear view mirror. I figured he must be wondering why I kept doing that. Murph had only died just 2 days before. My heart was super heavy with grief. It needed some comfort and warmth, and a Starbucks tall hot chocolate seemed to be the TLC I was craving.

When the man kept watching, I got a little self-conscious and stopped touching Murph’s collar. The line was long that day and moving slow. Then I noticed the woman in the car behind me was quite attractive. I decided the man in front of me must be looking at her, not me.

But then I pulled up to pay and the cashier said the man in front had paid for my order and told her to tell me to have a happy day and I burst out crying.

I wish I would’ve thought then to pay for the car behind me’s order, but I was too overcome. I’ve paid for stranger’s drinks before. Heck, I even paid for a veteran and his wife’s dinner one night. I’ve never been the recipient of a random act of kindness like this though.

I really felt Murph’s presence and “paws” in it. Oh, and the “Ho hey” song by the Lumineers had come on as I’d headed to Starbucks. The first time I ever heard it Murph was in the car with me. I don’t know what we were doing. Maybe just going for a walk. But the lyrics made me think of how I felt about Murph and ever since I’ve always thought of him when I hear that song.

I really think that day he was trying to tell me, “Hey, mom, I miss you too, but even though I’m up in Heaven I still got your back, okay?”

Thanks, Murph. You keep proving to me what an amazing pup you were really were.

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Easy Homemade Valentine “Bon Bons” for Less than $1.25 Each!

I love giving little presents any chance I get. (Thank you Valentine’s Day!)

Tomorrow is my NALTA team’s weekly clinic, and on Friday I’ll be playing a pick up game at the Y. I decided to bring all my tennis friends little homemade (well, okay, mostly homemade…home-assembled) Valentine “bon bon” goodie bags.

Pink and White Valentine Bon Bon BagsI thought it’d be a fun thing to share here because who knows? Maybe you’ll be looking for an inexpensive way to give a lot of people presents one day too.

MATERIALS

  • Two different colors of napkins or tissue paper (I used guest-sized napkins. You could also stick with one color. I was just trying to make my gifts look a little more festive.) Pink and White Guest Napkins
  • Candy (I chose 4 different kinds: Hearts, hugs, kisses and Sweethearts. But you could also bake something and wrap them in these too if you’re talented that way.)

    Assorted Valentine's Candy

    Dove Dark Chocolate Hearts, Hershey’s Kisses and Raspberry Hugs, Sweethearts

  • Ribbon White ribbon
  • Time (They’re not hard to put together but they did take me about 45 minutes to assemble them all. Of course, I was also distracted watching the Olympics at the time so I’m sure that slowed me down.)

STEPS

  1. Place napkins so one is laying at an angle on top of the other. Pink Napkin Catty Corner Napkins
  2. Put candy (or baked goods) in the middle. Candy in the middle
  3. Gather up the sides and tie together with ribbon. Valentine Bon Bon

So easy right?

COST

  • $14.27 for the candy (I didn’t buy any on sale. This was sort of a last minute decision so I had no coupons on hand. I’m sure I could’ve spent less if I’d put more thought into it.)
  • $6.00 for the napkins (Again, if I’d thought to go to the dollar store I’m sure I could’ve scored a better deal.)
  • I already had ribbon on hand. That cost me $0!
  • Total = $20.27

TOTAL BAGS MADE

17

For a grand total of $1.19 per bon bon bag!

Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.

 

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Tennis Superpowers

Last season, Fall 2013, was my 1st season to be captain of a NALTA (Nashville Area Ladies Tennis Association) team. That’s bigger than USTA leagues here in Middle TN. (In some places, USTA is the thing.)

But I have also been a captain of a USTA team here in Nashville. In fact, in 2012 we won our local league, went to State, swept it, then went on to Sectionals where we finished 3rd. Not too shabby for not really knowing what I was doing. (Story of my life. I always seem to do better that way really.)

Anywhoo…with any job, including being captain of a ladies tennis team, there’s always paperwork. I had a handy USTA folder I got when we went to Sectionals. I keep YMCA league score sheets, schedules, player and sub lists in it. (And of course kept USTA stuff in it too.)

For NALTA last season I just used the manilla folder our division’s coordinator gave us when we got our schedules and such.

The captain of the first team we played last season gave me a great tip: keep stamped, addressed envelopes on hand. (We email our scores to our division coordinator, but also mail in the hard copy score sheets.)

That was some very good advice.

I noticed a few of the other captains we played corralled all their paperwork with binders. Kept everything neat and tidy.

Most of them had their team names on their binders. But one also had a picture of their home tennis court.

That gave me an idea. One I finally acted on the other day.

I created a Servivors team binder. (That’s our name, the Servivors. One of our clever teammates, Susan, came up with it because it has a double meaning. A few of us are cancer survivors. But we also need to earn a certain amount of points as a team to stay at our level, which is B4. We’re always just barely earning the minimum to “survive” and stay in B4.)

I went out to Flickr Commons and stumbled across a great photo. I paired it with one of the many amusing sayings I’ve seen on various tennis merchandise on Zazzle, put it all together in Word, and voila! The Servivors now join the ranks of teams with organized paperwork holders!

Servivors SuperpowersI also created a graphic using just the photo.

Servivors Superpowers Graphic

 

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2014 Off to a Great Start!

2014 marks a big year for me. Or, at least, I hoped it would mark a significant milestone. I had my yearly CT scan on January 17, 2014. I had my six month oncology check up on January 21, 2014. The results of my CT scan and blood work were {insert drum roll here}…

NO CANCER!

That means I made it to five years in remission!!!

HUGE!

High Fiving to Health with My Awesome Oncology Team

High Fiving to Health with My Awesome Oncology Team

Except…

There always seems to be a “but” with my health tests anymore.

Dr. Patton, my oncologist, came in and I immediately bombarded him with the question, “Was my scan clear?” because I had been having some issues that made me worry the cancer was back.

He was pleased to report my scan looked great and my blood work was fine, but… (here it comes) he had a shocking question: “Have you ever been diagnosed with congestive heart failure?”

Speaking of hearts, mine fell right about then.

“Pardon me?” I asked.

He went on to explain the CT scan had showed something weird with my heart. Blood backing up into my liver or some such thing.

The trouble was, I’d had a heart attack-like incident on December 14, 2013. I was playing tennis with Wayne and suddenly felt this seizing pain in the left side of my chest. I couldn’t run, I felt like I was either going to pass out or throw up, or both. I feared I was having a heart attack but if it was going to happen, what better place than with my husband on a tennis court? If I didn’t survive, I couldn’t think of any place I’d rather die.

Plus, it was December. No way I was going to the hospital voluntarily. Bad things happen in December, and one already had. (I don’t think I wrote about it here, but on Haunt Jaunts I did. We lost our beloved dog, Murphy, on December 1, 2013…after he suffered a heart attack of all things.)

December is when my mom kicked my dad out of the house, took me to Nutcracker the movie for what I thought was a nice mom-daughter afternoon outing but instead was when she told me I’d be joining the ranks of school friends with divorced parents. And then of course in December 2008, New Year’s Eve to be exact, I officially learned I had cancer.

Nope. I consider December a jinx full of misery. Wasn’t going to add to it if I could avoid it.

But I couldn’t escape the fact something really had happened on December 14, 2013 with my heart now. Dr. Patton said he needed me to go see a cardiologist and have some other tests done.

Crap.

That put a damper on celebrating five yeas in remission.

Although, I consoled myself with the fact that there was some excellent news besides being cancer-free that came out of it: Since I made it to five years I wouldn’t have to endure yearly CT scans anymore. Halleluiah!! I thought cancer helped me lick my needle phobia, which in part it has. I can have my blood drawn without having a reaction and I can get small shots like a flu shot a-okay, but anything where the needle has to be left in my arm in IV-ish form? (I have to get contrast for those CT scans so they give me an IV.)

Fuggedaboutit!

Anyway, so I tried not to stress all week about the cardiologist visit. I knew the tests they’d give me there did not require needles. I could do it! Better they could find what was wrong. (Couldn’t have been that bad. I was still walking, playing tennis, actually feeling better than ever, but…maybe something was really wrong and I just didn’t know it yet.)

So I had a EKG and an echocardiogram and…100% a-okay!

Dr. Humphreys, the cardiologist, was super nice and funny. He told me, “You don’t need me! You have a great looking heart. Super young in fact.”

SHAZAM!

So NOW the five year celebration can start in earnest!

But that wasn’t the only good news to come this January. After 14 years of submitting various things to Woman’s World magazine, I finally got an acceptance! It’s for a little tidbit I submitted to their Circle of Kindness section. It will appear in the March 10, 2014 issue, which goes on sale February 27th.

Rock on!

2014 is off to a freaking awesome start!!

Hope you can say the same.

 

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