Monday, December 31, 2012

JJ Heller New Album - Loved - Out in March - Free 8 Song Download Today


JJ Heller has a beautiful voice and is a wonderful song writer. I do not have all of her music, but I do have her CDs "Painted Red" and "When I'm With You." "Deeper" was on my wish list, but I didn't get it...sooo I'll grab that as well. Soon JJ will be releasing another awesome CD. It is titled "Loved" and it is due out in March! If you would like a bit of a sneak glimpse into loved, check out the videos below AND go to JJ's website for a free download of some of her lovely songs as well as 3 songs from "Loved." By the way, "Loved" is also available for preorder now.

 Ending tonight (12/31/12) you can get eight free downloads from JJ via NoiseTrade. Go to her website for details.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Two Weeks - My New Year's Resolution in Two Week Bites

**I took a picture of these flowers on the grounds of the Tickle Pink Inn in Carmel, CA.

Ahhhh when the New Year rolls in, we all have so many exciting plans!  The idea of a fresh start is so exhilarating!  The plan making so fun!  It is kind of like dreaming about winning the lottery.  The possibilities are endless.  Then the new year begins and the the day and and day out begin, and it is all...well...a bit daunting. 

I decided that rather than make myself any firm commitments of total change for the year, I would instead make two week changes.  If I like them, I will go for two more.  If not, I will drop them without feeling guilty.  I like that part the best.  I figure that I can do anything for two weeks.  And trying different things every two weeks sounds pretty awesome.  I don't know what each plan will be for the two week intervals, but I do know that I will focus on many aspects of my life.  

 Now I do have ONE resolution.  I picked up a pretty awesome devotional from Billy Graham.  I do plan on reading that each and every day.  Other than that, it is all going to be a work in progress two weeks at a time.


As the new year has not begun yet, but the beginning of the week has, I am beginning my first two weeks with working on softening up my seriously thyroid and winter-dry skin.  Being hypothyroid makes this already a problem.  Add in the winter, and it is all over.  For the next two weeks, I will be following my endocrinolgist's advice and try Milk of Magnesia on my elbows and feet.  He said it will soften them right up.  I've been putting off trying it, but I'm ready now, we'll see how it all works out.  

Does this seem like a silly and small first step for the new year?  Maybe.  But it is my first start in trying something new and seeing if something I heard about actually works. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Review - Blink by Bradley Convissar


I love short stories.  There is something keenly satisfying about picking up a short story and knowing that before you are through, you will have payback.  I wish there were more short stories out there.  Well, I suppose there, and I just need to get out there and find them.  

My love of the short story began when I was quite young and sleeping over my grandma's house.  I always read my grandma's books and had just finished Jaws (yep, granny had a taste for a thriller or two).  I decided to look for another book and discovered Stephen King's "Night Shift."  I admit, I was pulled in by the cover.  It was a picture of a heavily bandaged hand with eyes on it.  That was enough for me.  I began to read.  In a word or was love.  I have devoured short stories ever since from romantic to horror.  It is a nice way to spend a short amount of time.  Anyway, I decided to share my reviews of the shorties I come across here.

Blink by Bradley Convissar

Info from Goodreads:   
Meet dentist Brian Mallory. He's always considered himself a grounded man. A rational man. A reasonable man. But what he finds in the mouth of nineteen year old Amy Gladwell one afternoon during a routine cleaning makes him begin to question his own sanity.

It's amazing how quickly everything can change in a a blink of an eye.

From the author of the Pandora's Children collection of short stories, the novellas Dogs of War and King of the Merge, and the short story Last Dance of a Black Widow, comes Blink, a chilling, 3500 word short story about a simple day gone horribly wrong.

My Review:  
I picked this up for free via Barnes & Noble for my Nook. When I grabbed it, I didn't realize it was a short story, although the cover pic certainly states it.  It was free and it looked kind of creepy, and that worked for me.  I loved that it was a short story. We need more short stories. I actually forgot it was on my Nook until standing in a long line at the post office. This was the perfect read for that line. 

It was a quick science fiction type story. I liked how the story flowed without really knowing what was going on until the very last bit. Having once worked in a dental office, I liked the idea of a little thriller in that setting.  The doc was the perfect pic of dentists I worked with in the past.  The ones who work with the young really do develop kind of  like a caring uncle thing.  They see these kids grow up.  Dr. Mallory was like that.  He is picking up the slack in the office and filling in for the hygienist when one of his long time patients, Amy comes in.  Things go from every day to not so much.  I do not want to spoil anything here soooo stop reading now. 
Or continue...I kind of wish Amy was completely unaware. I would have liked that better. It was a good story though, and I will definitely look for more from the author.  

Blink is available for free download from Barnes & Noble and Amazon right now. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

30 Days of Christmas Movies - The Heart of Christmas

I have been enjoying a plethora of Christmas movies with the goal of seeing 30 before Christmas.  I am going to probably have a blogging extravaganza to cover what I have seen, but today it is all bout movie number six "The Heart of Christmas."

Movie 6
The Heart of Christmas

Starring: Candace Cameron Bure, George Newbern, Jeanne Neilson, Eric Beck, Karl T. Wright, Dendrie Taylor, Burgess Jenkins, Anita Renfroe, Erin Bethea, and Matthew West.

"The Heart of Christmas" is a movie inspired by the story of the Locke family, and how their community in Illinois all supported young Dax and his family, by decorating the whole neighborhood for Christmas in October to bless this sweet boy who had been battling cancer.  In fact people all over the world decorated in the Christmas spirit for Dax that year. 

My review:  Whoa!  First of all, I totally have wanted to see this movie since it was released last November 2011.  One of my favorite singer-songwriters Matthew West wrote this song called "One Last Christmas" inspired by the family and Dax's story.  It is a song that tugs right at your heart.  When I found out that a movie would be made, I knew I had to watch it, yet...I couldn't bring myself to do it until this month.  In the end, I am soooo glad that I did.  "The Heart of Christmas" is a touching story of a family's love and of joining together to support one another in anyway we can.  It is also a story of living life now, enjoying each moment and cherishing every experience and person around you.

"The Heart of Christmas" shares the story of the Locke family through memories captured in the mom's blog as she and her family deals with their son's cancer treatment.  Another mom, reads the blog and we see how the Locke's story can impact other's lives.  It is a story that should impact lives.  We are all blessed, no matter what the circumstances, with the time we have.  Dax's family learns this, the community learns this, and we as viewers catch on too.  Will you cry?  I can't imagine you not.  I cried, and my husband cried.  There was certainly a sadness felt, but also inspiration.  :)

I'd rate "The Heart of Christmas" four candy canes out of five.

I watched "The Heart of Christmas" via Netflix streaming, but I also own it.  I picked up my copy at  Family  Christian Stores.  :) 

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Checking in Post Christmas Cleanse

*Taken in Carmel as well.  The water just reminded me of the dreaded but necessary cleanse.

Well, this Friday I tried the Christmas Cleanse that I found in First magazine.  You can check it out at my post here.  

I was a little nervous about doing the Christmas Cleanse.  I was not sure if I could handle not eating and only drinking the cleanse mixture and water with lemon all day, but I handled it well.  The cleanse drink was sour, but it wasn't overbearing.  I definitely was ready to eat the next day and I had a caffeine withdrawal headache, but I was also delighted with the results.  My pants which were tight two days before were loose in the waist and I had dropped 5 lbs.  Now I know this was 5 lbs in water weight, but I have been totally retaining water so this is okay with me.  It also gave me some extra motivation to move onto bigger and better.  Also just knowing that I could say no to everything even one day meant I could say no later. 

After Christmas, I will work on getting an elliptical trainer, and in the meantime, I am going to practice some portion control.  I am thinking about switching to salad plates for meals so I can visually trick my tummy.  I will also try to knock down my coffee drinking a bit.  I think I consume a lot of unnecessary calories with my coffee.  Whenever I drink it, I always hear Jillian from The Biggest Loser saying not to drink your calories.  This will be my biggest challenge.  I LOVE COFFEE!  :)  

For now I am just going to enjoy the rest of the Christmas season and be as intentional as possible about my intake.   I'm just happy about a fresh start.  :)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

I'm Going on a 24 Hour Bod Detox or Lessons from a Goodwill Dressing Room

*Pic from wine tasting at our favorite spot in Carmel, The Tickle Pink Inn.  This is where my husband and I celebrated our honeymoon and second honeymoon.  :)  It is also my reminder that for a while...I just have to say "I don't." 

Yesterday I went shopping for a costume for our office Christmas party which was a themed murder mystery.  I was picking up something that would pass for 1950s attire.  I also realized that I have gained WAY TOO MUCH WEIGHT!

I knew that I had gained some weight, and it has been bothering me, but there is nothing quite like the unforgiving light of the Goodwill dressing room to totally bring that message home!  If you ever want to see your body as is...go for it.  Those mirrors tell no lies!  I was inspired.  I felt so annoyed with myself.   Just last year, I had worked my tail off and lost lots of weight, and here I was just sneaking back up in size again!  So begins my action plan.

1- Change what I say.  I read in First magazine that it is far better to use the word "don't" rather than "can't."  I am a late night munchie girl, and last night I made a point of saying to myself "I don't snack at night."  "I don't crave chips."  It totally helped.  The magazine said that typically when you say don't, you have more power, whereas when you say "can't" you simply do not feel powerful and you often end up binging later.  It totally worked!  Last night was the first night in a LONG time that I worked late, but did not snack on anything more than water.  Yay!!!!!!

2- Cleanse.  I am going on a 24-hour Christmas cleanse.  I found this in First magazine too.  I cut the recipe out and pasted it in my handy little recipe notebook.  Here are the ingrediants:

8 oz Unsweetened Cranberry Juice
7 cups of of water
1/2 cup Orange juice
1/2 tsp Cardamom 
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
Pinch of cloves

Combine everything in a stock pot and heat until boiling.  Throughout the day you sip one cup of this brew (after heating up in microwave for 30 seconds) every other hour.  The  hour that you don't drink the brew, you drink 8 oz of water with the juice of half a lemon.  Supposedly this heals and detoxifies the liver AND you can also lose some quick weight. 

I don't plan on making this a historic daily plan, but right now, I need a boost.  Boy do I ever need a boost.  I can't wait until the holidays are over, because I am totally going to buy an elliptical trainer.  :)  First things first though.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

30 Days of Christmas Movies - One Magic Christmas

I am loving all the Christmas movies that I have had the chance to enjoy.  I have found quite a few that I have never seen before.  This is one.  "One Magic Christmas" is a Disney film and I am actually surprised I have never seen it before.  

Movie number 5:  One Magic Christmas
Starring Harry Dean Stanton, Mary Steenburgen, Gary Basaraba, Arthur Hill, Sarah Polley, and Michelle Meyrink (plus Elias Koteas - had to mention that...I'm a big fan)

It is Christmas season and Christmas angels are getting their assignments to help others.   Gideon has been assigned to help Ginny Grainger discover the true meaning of Christmas and the joy that she had lost along the way which is likely to happen when life gets you down.  The Grainger family has had it rough.  Jack lost his job at the factory six months ago, and Ginny has been doing her best to make ends meet with her job as a cashier in a grocery store.  Needless to say, things are not working out well.  The Grainger kids have the Christmas spirit as does Jack who spends time working on a bike for a gift for a poor neighbor and doing a little dreaming of a shop of his own.  Ginny just doesn't have room in her busy schedule for more than taking care of business which also involves the family moving out of their home (that is owned by the company her husband no longer works for).  Gideon has his work cut out for him.

My review:  One Magic Christmas is a gem.  With an angel, children, parents, a struggling town and Santa, it has everything a movie needs to have in order to give a lift to the spirit during the holiday season.  There is a life change and a little magic sprinkled in the story.  It is sweet without being over the top.  It came out in 1985, and somehow I never saw it.  By the way, I'm glad I didn't because it was lovely coming across it this week.  It is available via streaming on Netflix.  Catch it, you'll like it.  I'd rate it 4 candy canes on a scale of 1 - 5.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

30 Days of Christmas Movies - Christmas Town

I have been getting into the Christmas spirit with lots of forays into Christmas movies.  I have been watching at least one a day, and it has been lots of fun.  It has also been pretty easy thanks to Netflix and their instant streaming.  I have been able to watch all kinds of fun holiday movies.  I hope to share each one here.  The good, the bad, and the merry.

Today it is movie number 4 - Christmas Town

Starring Nicole de Boer, Patrick Muldoon, and Gig Morton.

The film begins with Liz a very career oriented real estate agent heading off with her son Mason to visit her father Jack in a small town named Hollyville (also known as America's Christmas town).  Liz's father is much like herself. A city person who was very focused on a very successful career.  Now that he has taken up residence in Hollyville, Jack has tossed his life of a banker to a life in the sweetest little Christmas town around, and Liz is not thrilled with the changes in her dad nor the quirky little town.

One of the townies named Kevin shares with Liz that he was once a mess before he came into town and that Hollyville is like the land of misfit toys.  All the residents had the need to be fixed. Liz definitely fits that description.

Young Mason is completely taken with the town.  Mason is also intrigued with the small factory outside the town called NP Enterprises.  Mason is convinced that the guy they call "the big guy" just could be Santa Claus.  

My thoughts - Christmas Town is a sweet movie.  There is a lot of fluff to it, but it has its moments.  I liked that Liz and her father became close again, it was nice seeing a little town dedicated to Christmas, but it was also weird because there was no snow.  I like snow in Christmas movies.  This could seem kind of silly since I grew up in California for half of my life and where I lived there was no snow.  The characters were all pretty sweet and on the dorky side, but they fit the movie.  For me the only oddity was Patrick Muldoon. The dude's hair distracted me throughout the movie.  This is what happens when your husband buys a very hi definition TV.  :)

On a scale of 1 to 5 candy canes, I'd give it 2.5 candy canes.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Duct Tape Wallet

*Every week at the radio station, I have been sharing DIY Christmas gifts that can be made on the cheap.  I had been struggling for a good guy's gift.  I've read about duct tape wallets, but I have never tried it.  I decided to dive in.  Of course I went dull old silver for this first try, but once I get a little more practice in, I may try to get color crazy.  :)

It took me FOREVER to figure out a decent guy crafty gift.  I have a few planned now, but we'll start with a duct tape wallet.  :) 

 I have never made one of these before so truly anyone, yes anyone can do it.  Here's what you need:

Roll of duct tape.  I used Duck brand.
Clean surface that the tape wont get stuck to.  I used a wooden TV tray.

Explaining this can be a bit difficult.  I am going to do my best but also include a link to the WikiHow page I found in order to make my wallet.

1 - Pull off a strip of tape about 8 inches long and lay it face up.

2 - Pull another strip off and place it face down along the strip covering roughly half of the strip.

3 - Fold the sticky part of the bottom strip over the top and flip the strip over.

4 - Add another strip face down covering the sticky half of the bottom strip and repeat process several times. 

5 - When you have a large enough rectangle fold remaining sticky tape over the shiny side and fold lengthwise.  At this point you can determine your wallet size.  If it is too large you can cut it down and refold until it looks good.  The tutorial says to not go beyond 6 inches by 8 inches.  Tape the ends together to make a pocket.

6 - Make another rectangle by following the steps 1 to 4.  Go about half the size as your last one.  Cut this in half to make two squares.  Tape these squares into the inside of the wallet and secure by taping to the inside pocket and outsides of the wallet while leaving open pockets facing the inside fold of the wallet.

7 - Make credit card holders by following steps 1 to 4.  This time make a long strip.  Cut this strip in half and use it to make credit card holders by staggering inside the wallet and taping the sides and bottom areas.  Use a credit card or driver's license as a guide so you make sure it fits right.

8 - TADA!!!!!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Christmas Linebacker

We saw this at church on Sunday, and I thought it was kind of cute.  It is funny, I read a post by someone who said that as Christians, they believed we shouldn't have a problem with people saying Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas and actually doing it ourselves, because really Jesus doesn't need us fighting his battles.  It sounded like the poster knew a lot of people who really get in other people's faces over the whole thing, and honestly I don't know anyone like they described as far as getting in anyone's face, but I know plenty who believe that the battle is also our own.  That we as Christians have a right to say Merry Christmas, have a Christmas tree and not have to feel looked down on or made to feel uncomfortable for wanting to do this by anyone especially other Christians. 

I don't think we should be in anyone's face if they say Happy Holidays, but I am still going to celebrate Christmas and say Merry Christmas. I think it is important to always show love for others and kindness, but I don't think we have to give up who we are to do it. 

Of course I don't plan on being the Christmas Linebacker about it.  :)  

Monday, December 3, 2012

Book Review - Knit One Kill Two

Knit One, Kill Two
By Maggie Sefton
Summary from Goodreads:  Kelly Flynn never picked up a pair of knitting needles she liked—until she strolled into House of Lambspun. Now, in the first in a brand-new series, she learns how to knit one, purl two, and untangle the mystery behind her aunt's murder.

My review:  Kelly Flynn has returned to Colorado upon the death of her aunt Helen.  Kelly originally plans to settle affairs after her aunt was murdered in a robbery.  Kelly sticks around when she decides that the police simply could not have the right guy and when she finds that she has quite a few more issues to take care of when it comes to her aunt's estate. Kelly's aunt lived in a cottage across the street from her former farm house.  That farmhouse now houses a knitting shop and cafe. Helen apparently spent a lot of time at this knitter's paradise, and made great friends with many of the frequent patrons.   These friends quickly befriend Kelly, and support her as she tries to find out who killed her aunt.

I liked the setting of the story.  The knit shop sounded like a dream to go to if you were into knitting.  The author described it so well, it was definitely like you were there.  The whole area was described beautifully.  I like small-town cozy mysteries, and I really wanted to like this one.  To be honest though, things kept pulling me out of the story.  I haven't had something like this happen before to such a degree.  So I hope I don't sound nitpicky.

1 - The cafe in the old farm house has a cook who apparently makes a great coffee.  It is so great that it is named again and again and again.  It was so tiring reading about Eduardo's aromatic brew in various different ways.  It pulled me out of the story time and time again because it was so annoying.

2 - The knitting shop - Kelly spends a lot of time at the knitting shop and makes fast (I mean FAST) friends with some of the other women.  They are all youngish probably mid to late 20s with full time jobs yet have endless time to always be at the knitting shop.  The friendships all seem a little too familiar for such a short time too.  I could understand the author rushing the friendships.  I just wish she maybe went with one and kind of moved the circle wider as the series moves.  It was the crazy flexible schedules that were weird to me and overly distracting.

3 - I hated that Kelly was obnoxious to this dude Steve simply because he looked similar to an ex of hers.  She continually scowls about him and grouses which is the oldest recipe in the book for romance novels.  Girl meets boy, girl hates boy, boy teases girl, and they fall in love.  It hasn't yet, but it is already obvious.  When a woman in the real world acts as obnoxious as Kelly does to a guy who is so obviously nice, any guy with half a brain would have no interest in her because they were see her as a witchy crab.

4 - Kelly's aunt was her last living relative.  Supposedly like a mom to her.  Yet from the description, she would have to be in her late 60s close to 70.  I couldn't figure out if Helen was a great aunt or much older sibling to her dad.  Either way, it distracted the heck out of me.  Why?   Because Kelly would talk to people who knew her aunt when she was much younger.  If her father and her aunt were siblings you'd think she would mention her dad to these people.  If not, you'd think she would mention her grandpa who would be the sibling (since Helen had the same last name as Kelly). Either way, the familial ties were so unclear, I kept wondering about this and loping right out of the read.

I'm going to stop there.  I don't want to cover everything that bugged me.  It was a good effort and just the start of a series.  A friend lent me the first two books in the series, and I have already started the second.  My hope is that the things the distracted me in the first book will be resolved in the second.  I look forward to seeing how things work out.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

30 Days of Christmas Movies - Santa Claus - The Movie

In order to really get into the spirit of Christmas, I thought it would be fun to watch 30 Christmas movies in 30 days.  I unfortunately haven't been able to post about each and every one each day, because my schedule has been a little busy so, I will probably post several today to catch up.  So far all the movies I have watched have been through Netflix streaming.

Movie 3 - Santa Claus: The Movie

Starring Dudley Moore, John Lithgow, David Huddleston, Burgess Meredith, Judy Cornwell, Christian Fitzpatrick, and Carrie Kei Heim.
Santa Claus the movie begins with telling the tale of how Santa became THE Santa.  Santa is first a kindly toymaker who along with his wife delivers the toys every year.  He and his wife have no children of their own so it is a special delight for them to make children happy with handmade toys.  Santa and his wife are given immortality by the toy making elves in order to share their toys with children all over the world.  

Hundreds of years pass with Santa delighting many with his wonderful gifts until we find ourselves in the 80s.  Santa is getting tired and needs an assistant.  One of the elves named Patch is up to the task with his creative ideas.  But of course some things go wrong and an evil toy manufacturer sets his sights on eliminating his North Pole competition.

In general, Santa Claus:  The Movie has some sweet parts and fun parts.  Santa and Mrs. Claus were amazing.  Both actors were completely delightful.  The elves were also wonderful.  Their home in the North Pole...FABULOUS.  

I think it all went great until they landed in the 80s.  At that point, the story lost its magic.  There is a Dickensian boy living on the streets that befriends Santa.  This boy Joe and his friend Cornelia (the poor little rich girl) defend Santa against all naysayers when people begin to turn against St. Nick.   They were sweet, but again seemed to be an odd addition to the film.  You picture little street urchins in old Dickens stories, but this loner boy was kind of odd.  The poor little rich girl seemed to belong in a movie in the 50s.  Sweet kids.  Just odd.  They aren't why the film fell flat for me.  It was just an odd combination of everything that went down from the modern era on.  

It was fun to kind of look back on the special effects choices that were made back then, but all in all, this was not a story that delighted me or gave me the holiday spirit like others.  I didn't get all misty eyed.  Not that getting misty eyed is necessary, but it just didn't tug at me emotionally at all.  There were a few moments that made me and my husband laugh.  When it was over, I didn't feel anything.  It was just okay.  With so many other Christmas movie options, I'd probably give this one 2.5 candy canes.  :)