Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Buying out British Used Book Stores in Search of Victorian Scotland

No automatic alt text available.I am writing a book set in Victorian Scotland while I am stuck in the middle of the U.S. So I find interesting, relevant books on Amazon. Some I buy on Kindle, some used. I buy very few new. Many of the books I pursue are not available on Kindle because they are so old. Some are not available new. I even bought one that came with dried flowers in it, I guess from a British meadow. I find references to more books and authors.  My husband recently commented that he never thought he'd be an expert on Victorian history, but he's becoming one.

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I am working on my second fiction book and, since it is historical, I'm trying to do my research (and loving it!).  But researching Victorian Scotland isn't easy from the middle of the U.S. I am thrilled that the non-fiction writers in Britain have shared their information gleaned from the royal archives and interviewing the families of people who know Queen Victoria and John Brown, two major characters in my story.  

I also watch a lot of YouTube. I love authors' talks about their non-fiction books. I watch videos of the landscape around the part of Scotland where my story is set. 

But the books!  I am collecting an interesting library about Victorian times, and many of the books are quite old. I buy hardbacks when I can. I have a really old copy of an Edwin Landseer biography that needs repaired. I am hoping my son (who did this kind of work at Wesleyan University as a student) can help me with it while he is home before he leaves for the Republic of Georgia in the Peace Corps. He can teach me the rough basics of book repair.  The old books are much more fun (and in-expensive) than new books! 

Remember, when you look up an interesting book on Amazon, to check out the used books.  For example, this is a good book about Victoria and Albert. I think I read this while I was in Australia, so I probably read it on Kindle, but we'll just use it as an example.

Here's the link to it on Amazon:

It costs 9.99 on Kindle, $13.88 in paperback, and is no longer available new in hardback, new. But, you can get a good used hardback for $3.59 + $3.99 shipping + $0.00 estimated tax.  Not a bad deal!

So you can research to your heart's content, even from Tulsa, Oklahoma. The English used book stores love to ship to you!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Maybe I'll do Keto

I've lost some weight. About 10 lbs since I quit drinking completely.

Why did I do that? 

Because we are planning to move to Mexico within the next year and our last move almost killed me. I am on a healthy living kick to get strong enough for a BIG move. Now that I am healing from hip replacement, I should soon be able to exercise more and more. Unless I decide on knee surgery too. I might. And I might not.

But my small weight loss has whetted my appetite....for more.  No, I don't really look like Melisandre as an old woman (for Game of Throne fans), but when I look at my 64 year old body in the mirror (my birthday was Saturday), I almost feel like I do.  Actually, I'm pretty hot for 64. A girl at Sprouts this week thought I looked like Stevie Nicks. Well, I am younger than she is, but I'll bet she's spent a lot more money on her face than I have on mine (no plastic surgery here, although if I were rich....)

So...a friend of mine recently showed me photos of her daughter-in-law who has been on the Keto diet and has lost loads of weight. Then another friend joined a Keto group on Facebook, so I decided to jump in too and see what it was about. And people on that group are always posting pictures to show how much weight they've lost and I am impressed.  Plus I have high blood sugar, which I control with diet, and so this is right down my ally. 

So the Keto ( or ketogenic) diet is another low-carb diet. We've all done those at some point, right? It's supposed to cause your body to produce ketones in your liver and use them as energy. Why is that good?

Normally, I guess, your body gets its energy from glucose, which the body produces when you eat carbs (and mine produces WAY TOO MUCH of). It ignores the fat stored in your body and gobbles up that glucose. "Yum!" says your body. But it doesn't like the fat as well, and so it stays in all those wrong places, and your clothes show your bumps and budges. 

When you really, really cut back on carbs, though, your body goes into a state of ketosis. That's what your body does when it thinks you are starving. It starts to produce ketones from breaking down fat in your liver. And since you aren't producing much glucose, your body, goes, "OK. I'm hungry. I'll eat these." And the fat goes away.

Starvation? Ugh. 

NO! You are not starving yourself of yummy calories or of fat, just of carbs. Getting rid of those carbs puts you in keto and you start to lose all that ugly fat.

So that's my plan. I don't think it will be that hard for me. I already <somewhat> eat like that. I don't eat processed food or sugar or very much bread/wheat. That's a good start.  And I cook from scratch. This week, I've made eggplant Parmesan and hobo stew that would have fit into the plan. Tonight is a roasted chicken and cauliflower.  But I'm going to get serious about this thing. And start adapting and sharing recipes that I cook. Maybe even make some YouTube videos. 

Interested? Follow me down the yellow brick path of Keto.

(Also more about getting ready to move to Mexico, writing a book about a time traveler to Queen Victoria's Scotland and my art!) So much too do. So hard to work my 40 hr. job and find time for everything else too. 

BTW. this is the picture on my art gallery that's been getting the most comments lately. I think people are ready for springtime!  See the little ladybug on the cherry blossoms? 

Art Prints

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Hip surgery over Christmas break

Well, my hip surgery is over. It happened a month and four days ago. The Tuesday before Christmas. I am getting around great now, but it still hurts and I am impatient. I want to be well now. I am tired of hurting.

But I must be positive. I am getting better. It hurt before the surgery and was getting worse. Now it IS GETTING BETTER. I am not going to post my x-rays. They show too much of the private parts of my body, but here I am, getting ready to go into surgery.

Last time I showed you the sewing machine I bought to make curtains. Actually, I have not made curtains at all. We looked for fabric and didn't find any we liked within our budget.

So we moved in without curtains and we kind of like it. We plan to sell our house in about six months. Our walls are freshly painted, so maybe we'll just let the next owners put up curtains.

We drove around our neighborhood at Christmas and most houses here are wide open. We could see the people walking around and everything going on in their houses. This is a historic, beautiful upscale neighborhood. We, at least, have nothing to hide behind curtains.  We don't mind if people drive by and see us eating dinner. Cheers

I did use my sewing machine to recover this chair (See before and after photos above). It's not too bad to buy $30.00 fabric when you only need one or two yards. What do you think of the outcome? Here's a shot of the chair in my living room:

Note the lights above the aimore. This living room has traditionally been very dark, and we want it to look larger for when we sell. Here's what we did:

  • We painted the walls a lighter, more neutral color. 
  • We bought a smaller rug (tribal-on sale at Pottery Barn--LOVE IT!) and left more bare wood floor showing. 
  • We used modern, bright art and simpler furniture. And we lit our art.
  • We also added lights over our aimore and the bookcase of the same size on the other size of the door to the sunroom.
To create the lights over the furniture, I simply bought two strip LED lights (meant to go under cabinets) and laid them up there. I did weigh them down so they would not move, and I strung the cords behind the furniture. It looks great and cost less than $50.00, with extension cords. 

So, here we are. Christmas is over. My surgery is over. Now, I have to prepare to sell my house and move to Mexico.

My Christmas tree is crazy. I haven't counted them, but I probably have a thousand ornaments. I was watching a YouTube show on Victorian Christmases last night, and my tree looks a lot like the trees they featured. I hang ornaments inside the tree, layering them and giving it dimensions. It looks like a piece of jewelry, but it takes days to put up and weeks to take down.  

And I am packing all of those ornaments to move to Mexico. I am packing them in small boxes (we received many of those before Christmas and while moving in, mostly from Amazon.)

I am packing the small boxes into larger boxes, the boxes we used to move from Australia. They are international shipping boxes, sturdy and sized to fit into a container. Hopefully, all of my beautiful ornaments will survive the trip.

Well, so much for my news this time. What will be coming up?
  • I have another chair to re-cover. 
  • I have to get busy landscaping as soon as the weather allows. Two years of renters while we were abroad wrecked our yard. They did not care.
  • I am getting serious about writing my next book. I'll tell you about it soon! 
  • And I am making YouTube videos about Victorian life. So much fun!
  • Oh, and yes, it's time to get serious about my diet. I have to start testing my blood for sugar levels again. But soon I'll be able to exercise much more. I am about to get into shape!  Recipes coming soon!

Monday, October 10, 2016

My hip or my house?

What do I write about first? My hip or my house?

I guess I'll get my hip out of the way. If you've read earlier posts of mine, you know I broke my hip on the beach in Australia. At least I was carried off the beach by Australian lifeguards, but the rest of the story hasn't been so pleasant.

I had surgery on the Sunshine Coast of Australia. My hip kept bothering me, and when I first came back to the USA, the first doctor I complained to just seemed to think I wanted him to prescribe me medication. (Actually, I never take anything stronger than Tylenol.) He sent me to physical therapy, but that was hard to keep up when I went to work full-time and didn't seem to be helping much.

Now I have a new, much better doctor and he sent me to see a doctor who x-rayed me and discovered that the ball of my hip is crumbling. Ick. No wonder it hurts. So I have to have a hip replacement. But first, the doctor wants to take out the screws to let the bone fill in the holes a little and give me an injection that will help me feel better until the actual surgery.

They scheduled me to take out the screws, but then realized that I have a stint in my heart, and now I have to see a cardiologist before the first procedure. That's in the morning. If you've ever taken a stress test, you know it's no fun.

I can't have caffeine today, and I can't eat after midnight. You know that drill, I'm sure.  And I MIGHT have my first procedure on Thursday. What a week!

Meanwhile, we're moving!! I worked in the yard this weekend, and the painters started today. I can't WAIT to run over after work and see how it looks so far.  Or house was built in 1928. It has beautiful designer colors, but some of them are kind of dark and make the rooms look small. We are leaving most of it, but we are painting the living room a lighter, cooler color and the study will be painted that color and hunter green.

Here's what our study and living room look like right now:

I'll post pictures when the painting is done and again when we have moved into these rooms. When I was in Australia, I was really impressed at the real estate photos that everyone did. Wide angle and HDR Photograhy. In the pictures above, I was just playing around right after I got some new lenses in the mail. I'll do a much better job on the finished project. You'll see!

I took these photos with my cell phone, by the way. I ordered a some clip-on lenses that are supposed to be for iPhone 6s/6s Plus, iPhone 6/6 Plus,iPhone 5 5S 4 4S Samsung HTC Android, but they work great on my Galaxy S6 Edge+.
The lenses are Luxsure® Universal 3 in 1 Camera Lens Kit Clip-On 180 Degree Supreme Fisheye + 0.65X Wide Angle+ 10X Macro Lens
You can see them here: I'm very impressed, so far!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Wow! I've come a long way!!

Guess what? I'm home in the USA. I have moved from Australia back home to Oklahoma. I've been back just almost a year now, and have been working so hard that I have not had time to write on my blog or on my book.

We moved home last October and our wonderful house was rented out, so we had to lease a house for a year. That year has been a blur. First, I worked remotely to my company in Australia, then I was hired by a Tulsa company owned by Dell. I still work there, but Dell has sold us to a Silicon Valley equity firm. The sale should/might be complete this month. Then no telling what will happen.

We just had a software release, so I've been working weekends and nights, but now things have slacked off temporarily, which is a very good thing for two reasons.

  1. We are moving back into our wonderful house in time for the holidays.
  2. I have to have surgery. Remember that I broke my hip in Australia and they pinned it? Well, the ball of my hip joint is crumbling.and I have to have an artificial joint. I'm becoming a cyborg!!
So I am all excited about living in my house again. I am making draperies. I want to move the hardware in my living and dining room windows up to right below the trim to make the windows look more elegant, and I need to buy a new sewing machine.  I don't want to spend a LOT of money, and I've read that Brother is a good brand if you're not going high-end.

I'm seriously thinking of buying this one:

It's a Brother Project Runway CE7070PRW 70-Stitch Computerized Sewing Machine with a wide table for $144.00.  It does more than any other sewing machine I've ever had. I like the wide table for sewing my drapes and I may have some other similar projects to work on.

Here are a few pictures of my beautiful home to enjoy.  I have many interesting projects planned and I'll try to do much better at keeping up this blog and showing you what I'm up to!!    P.S. You may hear some ranting and raving about the renters who have been living in my house for almost three years, but the holidays will be glorious!!!



Sunday, August 9, 2015

Tomato Salad with Green Beans and Basil and Peach, Rhubarb & Ginger Crisp YUM!

Well, it's been another week of late winter in Oz.  We grilled on Saturday night and I tried two great new recipes. 

Here in Queensland we can pretty much grill year round. We knew we were going to Costco on Sunday so we pulled out lots of meat to grill (I'll bring it for lunch all week...the fish, anyway).  So we grilled pork and steak and swordfish and salmon.  I made flat bread on the grill and we had some left-over rice. You know it's much better for you if you let your rice cool and re-heat it. Makes a lot of the carbs unusable by your body. Then I tried my new recipes.


The first was a Tomato Salad with Green Beans and Basil.  My husband always says he likes salads, then doesn't eat them, but he gobbled this one up!  I couldn't find romano beans at our local veggie market, so only used green beans. I only used one lemon and two heirloom tomatoes because only two of us were eating, and I left the cherry tomatoes for another time because I thought I had enough tomatoes already.  A great thing about Queensland is that we can grow basil year round, so I harvested a few leaves off all my basil plants and the result was delicious!  The beans were crisp and lemony. Basil is always wonderful. A complete hit!


Tomato Salad with Green Beans and Basil 
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 oz. green beans, trimmed
8 oz. romano beans, trimmed
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 lemons, zest and juice
4 medium heirloom tomatoes (half sliced 1/4" thick, half cut into 1/2" wedges
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1/2 cup basil leaves, preferably a mix of regular and Thai basil, torn
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; cook green and romano beans until bright green and yellow, 1–2 minutes. Drain beans and transfer to a bowl of ice water until chilled. Drain beans and spread on paper towels to dry. Whisk vinegar, olive oil, lemon zest and juice, salt, and pepper in a bowl until combined; add reserved beans and the tomatoes and toss to combine. Arrange beans and tomatoes on a serving platter. Drizzle with olive oil; sprinkle with basil leaves 
salt, and pepper.

The next recipe is a Peach, Rhubarb and Ginger Crisp. That didn't last long. And it was easy breezy to make!  Of course, you need to like Rhubarb, which my hubby and I do.  (Did you read about the bear who broke into the bakery and ate every pie except the strawberry-rhubarb pies? What was wrong with that bear?)  I used sugared ginger pieces instead of crystallized and ate too much of it before I made the pie. I'll try to save more for the pie next time.  And for the 1/4 cup brown sugar, I used 1/2 brown sugar and 1/2 a mixture of Stevia and molasses. Better for us.  We were good and left half of this dessert for breakfast. Delicious for both supper and breakie.

Peach, Rhubarb & Ginger Crisp
2 cups sliced peaches or nectarines (1/2-inch slices), fresh or frozen, peeled if desired
2 cups sliced rhubarb (1/2-inch slices) or blueberries, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon minced crystallized ginger
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup white whole-wheat flour (see Note)
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon minced crystallized ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon canola oil

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-inch shallow glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray.
2. To prepare filling: Toss peaches (or nectarines) and rhubarb (or blueberries) with brown sugar and crystallized ginger. (If using frozen fruit, let stand for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, to thaw the fruit before transferring to the baking dish.) Transfer to the prepared baking dish and spread in an even layer.
3. To prepare topping: Combine oats, pecans, flour, brown sugar, crystallized ginger and salt in a medium bowl. Drizzle butter and oil over the mixture and stir until evenly moistened. Sprinkle the topping over the fruit.
4. Bake until the fruit is bubbly and the topping is browned, 35 to 50 minutes. Let cool for about 20 minutes before serving.
It's also been an exciting week for my art. First, I work up Saturday morning to discover that one of my Tulsa pictures had sold. Always a great way to start a day. So it will be hanging in some home or office back in Tulsa. I'm glad they loved it.

I starting poking through an old external hard drive and found some Photoshop files I've been looking for forever.  They are art works I created years ago, but had misplaced the original files. I went through all layers on all of these pictures and updated them. I'm much better at Photoshop than I was years ago....

This picture, based on a map, was inspired by the following Rudyard Kipling poem. Doesn't it set your heart on fire? On the road to Mandalay, Where the old Flotilla lay, Can't you 'ear their paddles chunkin' from Rangoon to Mandalay? On the road to Mandalay, Where the flyin'-fishes play, An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China 'crost the Bay!

I also created two new artworks that I love. One is the center of a rose that should be displayed very large. Don't you think?   

And the other is a fantasy historical picture. It's origin is the photograph of a minstrel girl that I took at a Medieval Faire a few years ago, but I also used some photographs of  some actual medieval elements in the background and it turned out quite well, I think. What do you think?


Monday, August 3, 2015

Spicy Roasted Chickpeas and a video from Down Under

So, do you like my new necklace?  I made it. I think it's the best one I've made yet!

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live at the bottom of the world where it's currently winter and Christmas happens in the middle of the summer?
In some ways, it's not that different from the United States and in some ways it's very similar. Here's a little video of my drive from the Central Business District (CBD) of Brisbane, Queensland, where I drop my hubby off each morning to Windsor, north of the city, where I work. 

While I'm here, I'm taking as many pictures as I can to store up the memories of this beautiful, friendly land, and making art from them.

Here are a few that I've posted recently:

Photography PrintsPhotography Prints Photography PrintsArt Prints

And now here's my recipe of the week, which is inexpensive, easy, healthy and delish! I didn't have to buy anything. Everything I needed was right there in my cabinet.

Spicy Roasted Chickpeas


2 cups cooked chickpeas, or 1 (15 oz) can
1½ teaspoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¾ teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
a dash of cayenne pepper

And the directions

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

2. Pat the chickpeas dry between two paper towels and be sure to remove any loose skins.

3. Pour the chickpeas on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat and mist with olive oil. Use your hands or a spoon to toss the chickpeas. In a small bowl, combine the seasonings and whisk to combine. Sprinkle the mixture onto the chickpeas and toss to coat. Bake for 25 minutes, stirring the chickpeas at the 15 minute mark.