Love In War

Love In War is the first romantic novel in the Battle of Hearts series that follows the journey of Samantha Matthews. Samantha has been married to Kevin for eight years and they share two small children, but the love is gone from their marriage. Samantha craves passion and romance but has settled into a familiar routine between raising her children and being a housewife.

When she reconnects online with Ryan Benson, an old high school friend, sparks fly. Ryan is deployed to Iraq, and their only way of communicating is on the computer and phone. With each passing conversation between them, Ryan and Samantha fall deeply in love. They have to wait another five months until he comes home for R&R to see each other for the first time in eight years.

While Samantha struggles with her husband finding out about her online affair and passing the days until her love comes home, Ryan faces war every day, knowing there is a chance he may not make it home at all. When he does make it back, they spend the most amazing and steamy two weeks together. Even then, they face trials and challenges because of his difficulty adapting to the changes in his life.

When Ryan returns to Iraq, will the love they share be strong enough to survive until he comes home for good?

 To read an excerpt from Love In War, go here: Read a sample of Love In War

Please don’t forget to rate it by clicking the stars at the bottom!

If you like the sample and want to read more, click the link below to purchase your digital copy!  You don’t need a Kindle; just download the Kindle Reader app to any device, including iPhone/Android/PC!

Love In War Digital Edition

Thanks, y’all! 🙂




I disappeared on y’all again, but I promise it was for a good cause!  For years, I have wanted to begin writing and actually finish a book, but life happened.  Ball practice, band practice, JRTOC events, band concerts, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning…  Well, you get it.

Last April, I sat down and began what would have been my third book (the first two were lost somewhere in the guts of virus-infected, now-deceased desktop dinosaurs), and wrote a little here and there as I found the time.  Last week, the writing bug hit me.  Hard.  I ignored my housework and forced the hubby and kids to eat pizza and hot dogs for supper while I worked on my book.

Finally, at around 1:30 this morning as the rest of the house was quiet with the occasional freight-train snore (I don’t know if it was human or one of the dogs), I finished my book.

I haven’t yet shared it with anyone other than the hubby, and he says it’s great.  (I know he’s incredibly biased.)  I have a preview of it up on CreateSpace for reader reviews and opinions and would love some honest feedback.  As much as I have wanted to do this for myself, I am now shakin’ in my boots (erm, bare feet?) at the idea of someone hating it, although I know there will always be haters for everything in every situation!

Go check it out if you have a minute:   Love In War Preview.

If you like the preview and want to read more, download the digital version here: Love In War.  You can get the Kindle reader app for free here. You can install it on any type of device, even your PC!

PS:  I HAVE been working on new recipes here and there!  I have two awesome new goodies to share in the coming days, so stay tuned! 😉

Can I borrow an hour? (Or three?)

Every time I decide that I’m going to begin blogging again, like regularly blogging, life happens.  And then, more stuff happens.  I cannot justify sitting down and spending an hour on just me when SO much needs to be done.

I got the results of my thyroid ultrasound a couple of weeks ago.  I still have seven pesky cysts in there.  One of ’em is a good bit bigger than the others, and has peripheral calcification and solid components within – huh?  A couple of the others have mural calcification.  Again, huh?  Apparently, 70% of the time, thyroid cysts with peripheral calcification are malignant.  Well, ain’t that just yay?  Argh.

I have an appointment with what seems to be an excellent endocrinologist in the Charleston area in April.  I’ll see him, get a couple of these things biopsied, then we’ll see what happens next.  I am SO not jumping up and down at the idea of having a NEEDLE stuck into the front of my neck!  I google way too much, and already have dozens of horror story-type scenarios playing out in my head.  Google is evil.  When it’s not being helpful, I mean.

So, with the threat of major health issues and treatments, etc. in my future, I figured I needed to spend some time preparing, just in case.  After all, this place would totally fall apart without me.  Seriously.  I was sick last week, and am so grateful no visitors came knocking on my door.  My house was a wreck.  Floors unswept, mountains of dirty (and clean) clothes piled with no willing soul to wash or fold them, random mail and tools and shoes and other junk littering every surface… O.M.G.  And the meals… bless my hubby for trying to make sure he and the boys ate, but there was absolutely nothing healthy about what they ingested last week.

In between being sick, I’ve been working on preparing “just-in-case” meals to freeze for them (ya know, in case I get thrown into the hospital at some point), deep-cleaning the house, organizing our Family Emergency Binder and other documents… Oh, and I managed to organize some of my photo albums.  That was a total multi-tasking-turned-ADD thing.  Don’t ask.

Yesterday, I did decide to treat myself.  That is a RARE, once-in-a-blue-moon kinda thing.  All this health stuff has made my already thin, fine hair even thinner, and while I loved my long hair, I figured it was time for a change.  I’ve had it trimmed a couple of times over the past few years, but not cut and styled.  And shampooed?  I hadn’t had the whole nine yards in like, eight years.  Seriously.  So I booked an appointment and treated myself to the whole nine yards.  And lost ten inches of hair.  :O

I’m totally lovin’ the new ‘do.  It’s fun and more age-appropriate, I reckon (even though J said I look like I’m in my 20s again, hehe!).  Either way, it was nice to do something just for me.  🙂

As for cooking, I haven’t created anything new lately, but I have made a couple of things this week that all my guys totally loved.  The first was a Sausage, Lentil & Sweet Potato Soup.  I found the recipe over at The Pretty Bee.  I did make a few adjustments but it was still pretty close to the original recipe.  I didn’t have carrots.  I diced and added three regular potatoes in addition to the sweet potatoes.  I used deer sausage, and I added in 1/4 pound of ground beef.  It totally filled up the crockpot.  We had enough for supper, I filled the boys a thermos-full each for lunch the next day, and we still have some left.  Cheap, easy, filling, and most importantly – hubby and kid approved!

I also made a batch of Chess Squares (I think it’s called Gooey Butter Cake here in the South), and they loved it.  Apparently it’s a well-known treat, but I had never made it before.  After seeing how quick and easy it was, and how few ingredients I needed, I decided it would be perfect for dessert in the boys’ lunches for the week.  Hop over to Kevin & Amanda for the recipe!  😉

I’ll really try to be better at updating. I know y’all just totally miss me when I’m gone, right?  Haha!  Seriously though.  Send me some energy.  And motivation.  And a flippin’ cleaning fairy!

Fudge Sandwich Cookies

J and I landed on the topic of candy bars yesterday; that child and I have some of the most random conversations. “Papa’s favorite was Butterfinger, wasn’t it?” he asked. I shook my head. Daddy may have gotten hooked on Butterfingers during the last year or so, but all my other memories involving him and candy bars circled around a particular and familiar dark brown rectangular package.

“Papa liked Butterfingers, but his all-time favorite was a plain ol’ Hershey bar,” I answered. Mmm, chocolate.

Ever since then, I’ve had chocolate on the brain. How could I not? Nothing is better than chocolate. Unless chocolate marries peanut butter and has little Reese’s cup babies… Nothin’. Better. EVER.

Anyway, between the boys and B, all those little Apple Cobbler Tartlets I made are gone, and the boys needed desserts for their lunches the rest of this week. There was no debate, no wracking of the brain needed on this one. It had to involve chocolate.

I make cookies all the time, and the boys love ’em, but I wanted to do something a little different. So I set out to make soft chocolate sandwich cookies with a fudgy cream inside. They didn’t turn out quite like I’d wanted, and some were downright ugly (the first batch kinda spread waaaay out during baking and they blended together), but all three guys rated these a 9. I’ll take it. The cookies are thin (which is actually good because of the fact you’re putting two of them together), and have a soft, moist, cake-like texture. They’re softer than regular cookies, but a little tougher than cake meaning they can stand up to holding the creamy frosting in the middles.  My guys said they tasted very much like Fudge Rounds. 🙂

For the cookies, I chunked me 6 tablespoons of softened butter and ¾ cup of sugar into a bowl and went to mixin’.  I did this until the mixture was fluffy.  It kinda reminded me of marshmallow cream.  Oh, and I preheated the oven to 325 F. 😉

I added three eggs (I always let my eggs sit out until they’re room temperature anytime I’m baking, btw), one at a time.  It took about four minutes or so with my hand mixer to get it just right – really fluffy and not at all runny.

Next, I divided ¾ cup of self-rising flour (I make my own) and dumped the first half into the mixture.  I folded it in using my favorite rubber spatula.  Once it was well incorporated, I added the remaining half of the flour, along with ¼ cup of Hershey’s cocoa powder, a teaspoon of baking powder, and ½ teaspoon of vanilla.  You wanna fold this in gently.  You’ll see what I mean because this stuff just seems sooo delicate when you’re working with it.  It’s like a fluffy little chocolate cloud.

I greased a cookie sheet and dropped heaping tablespoons of the batter onto it.  This is where I messed up the first batch.  I managed to fit 15 dollops of batter onto the sheet, and they all spread out into a big irregularly shaped – umm, cookie?  You’re gonna want to make sure there are at least two inches in between each dollop of batter to give ’em room to spread.  I could show you what they looked like afterward, but it’s embarrassing.  I ended up using a knife to cut them into actual circular cookie shapes after they were done.  Maybe I should create a blooper reel for my cooking mishaps… Now that would be funny.  Anywho, pop them babies in the oven at 325 F for approximately 13 minutes.  You may want to start watching yours at around 10 minutes.

While those were baking, I prepared the cream (frosting?) for the middles.  In a medium bowl, I combined ¼ cup softened butter, two cups of powdered sugar, three tablespoons of Hershey’s cocoa powder, one teaspoon of vanilla, and four tablespoons of milk.  I mixed it well until it was smooth and creamy.

When the cookies are done and cool enough to handle, spread a generous amount (you be the judge on that!) of the frosting on the flat side of half the cookies, and create sandwiches with those using the other half of the cookies.  Not the prettiest thing ever, but they definitely cure a craving for chocolate.  I ended up having to make three batches after I spaced them out further on the sheet, but got about 18 total sandwich cookies out of the deal.

What’s YOUR favorite candy bar?  🙂

Homemade Hot Pocket Knockoffs

Remember how in my Apple, Peanut Butter & Oatmeal Cookies post I told you about making things for the boys’ lunches in advance?  I totally slacked last week… as in I gave them lunch money every day for school lunch – Whaaat? It was the first week back after Christmas break and I just could not get motivated.  So tonight I figured I’d go ahead and throw something yummy together for their lunches for a couple of days this week.

I had some frozen turkey meat that I had chopped and shredded from our Christmas evening meal (I always save leftovers from holiday turkeys or hams to use for other meals), and figured that was a start.  I tossed ideas around in my head for a while, and decided to make something like Hot Pockets using the meat, some quick and easy dough, and some shredded cheese.  Yes, I could have just made sandwiches, but like I said, I owe ’em.  They let me sleep an extra 20 minutes every morning last week and ate at school, so it’s my responsibility to re-assume the role of “the mom who makes awesome lunches”.

You could easily make these for your own lunch at work or on the go (I’m HUGE about taking my own drinks and food along when I go somewhere – cuts down on the cost of fast food!), or even change the ingredients up a bit to have them as breakfast.  The possibilities are endless and the outcome is almost always yum.  Unless you like, add something gross, of course… 😉

To start off, I set the oven to preheat at 400 F.  Then I grabbed that shredded turkey from the freezer.  I had just over two cups, probably close to 2 1/4 cups, so I decided to just use it all.  (I did end up having some left over, and hubby can have it on a sandwich for lunch tomorrow.)

Next, I heated a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a pan and added the turkey along with 1/2 cup of Birdseye Recipe Ready Green Peppers and Onions.  I LOVE that stuff!  No chopping or crying over onions necessary; just grab it outta the freezer and add into whatever I’m cooking.  It’s pretty inexpensive too – Walmart carries it for just over a dollar a bag, and I find coupons for ’em all the time making them nearly free.  I also added a dash of salt and pepper, but rarely do I measure how much.  Seriously, do y’all measure salt and pepper for stuff like this?  It’s like I’ve been cooking for so long, I know just how big or little of a “dash” I need to add to whatever I’m making.


So while the turkey was heating up, I started on the dough.  It’s just a basic, easy dough that I also use for homemade pizza.  I mixed together 2 ½ cups of flour, 2 ¾ teaspoons of baking soda, 1 teaspoon of salt, and a teaspoon of Italian seasoning.  Sift ’em together, then add ¾ cup of water and a tablespoon of cooking oil.  It should be soft and sticky, but you may need to add up to another ¼ cup of water; just add a little at a time until it’s just right.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about five minutes.


Use a rolling pin to roll your dough out into a large rectangle about ½” thick.


I wanted to make four “pockets”, enough for two days’ worth of lunches, so I sliced the dough into four sections.  On top of each section, I scooped on some of the turkey mixture and added some shredded cheese.  I used a Mexican Fiesta blend I had, but you can use anything you like.


I folded each one closed, and used a fork to press and seal the edges together.  And just because everything is better with butter (riiiiight?!), I melted some and drizzled it over the tops.

Pop them babies in the oven at 400 F for 20-25 minutes.  Mine took closer to 25, but just keep an eye on ’em.  😉  The end result was a hit with my boys, and they’ve already asked for more!  I was a little worried that the turkey would be too dry without any kind of sauce in there, but they said it was still moist and yummy!  The outside is a fluffy, buttery biscuit-like crust with a bit of crunch to it.

What would you fill these with?

Apple Cobbler Tartlets

I had every intention of getting around to posting before tonight, but this week was crazy, y’all.  I had an appointment with my new doctor on Monday.  I loved my old doctor, but once things were diagnosed, that was about as far as it went.  There were no referrals, no treatments, and no hope to someday feel normal again.

Fourteen years ago after I started feeling like my food was getting stuck, they found two cysts on my thyroid.  I needed fine needle aspirations to drain them and that never happened.  In 2008, another ultrasound showed that the two cysts had multiplied to seven.  Two of them had calcified, and I was told I needed the fine needle aspirations AND biopsies of those two.  That didn’t happen, either.  After a third ultrasound last April, I wasn’t even told how many cysts were there.  My thyroid levels were always normal, but with each passing year, I felt worse.  I had symptoms of both hyper- and hypothyroidism.  I was tired all the time, achy all over, had heart palpitations (cardiologist announced I had a healthy heart), tremors, trouble sleeping… you name it, I felt it.  My old doctor ran  more blood tests last September and finally thought to check for specific antibodies, and BAM – there it was.  I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease.

I still don’t don’t completely understand it, but it was kinda nice to finally have a reason for the way I felt.  I’m only 34, and most days I feel like I’m 70.  I’m tired of being tired and missing out on life!  Anyway, my new doctor seems to be concerned with not only finding answers but helping me get back to a point where I can feel good again.  I have to go back tomorrow for bloodwork… fasting bloodwork.  Which means I can’t eat after about midnight.  My appointment isn’t until 11am, and let me tell you – that’s gonna be tough.  I’m one of those people who wants – slash that – needs breakfast and coffee as soon as I get up.  It’s only a few hours, though, right?  I can do this.

So, y’all remember all those apples I bought on sale last week?  I made a batch of cookies with two of them.  The rest have been sitting in the fruit bowl on my counter all week, begging to be eaten before they go bad.  Or maybe they were screaming “Don’t eat me!”, which is why they were left untouched.  Either way, I cringed every time I passed those nearly five pounds of apples knowing that if I didn’t do something soon, they’d go to waste.  Why is it that my hubby and kids complain when we don’t have fruit in the house, then ignore it when we do?!  I digress.

Anyway, last week’s cookies just barely made it the whole week.  The boys are out of school tomorrow, but I figured I’d go ahead and make a batch of goodies tonight to pack into their lunches for a couple of days this coming week.  I flat refused to make anything that didn’t contain apples because them suckers have got to go!  And I don’t mean go to waste.  So with a little brainstorming, this is what I came up with – Apple Cobbler Tartlets.  I wasn’t at all sure how they were going to turn out, but the samples I handed out to the guys came back with two thumbs up!  They have a little crispness like a cobbler, the filling isn’t overly sweet, and considering they have both apples and oats in ’em, I wouldn’t say they’re totally unhealthy. 😉

I chopped up three medium-sized apples into 1/2″ cubes, which came out to about 2 1/2 cups. I threw those into a pot, and added a stick of butter, 1 cup of brown sugar, and 1/2 cup of oats. I set it on low-medium heat and stirred it every couple of minutes.

Once it began to thicken, I added in a teaspoon of vanilla and two tablespoons of liquid coffee creamer since I didn’t have any cream. I used the International Delight Sweet Cream flavor, but I imagine you could use anything you want; it might just change up the flavor a bit. Reduce the heat to low, remembering to stir often.

Meanwhile, lay out a can of crescent roll dough into a couple of rectangles and pinch the seams together. I used the opening of a Mason jar to cut circles, but you can make yours any size you want. I had to gather the scraps and re-roll it to make more circles. I ended up with 24 dough circles. I scooped a small spoonful of the apple mixture onto 12 circles, then placed the other 12 circles on top of those. Using a fork, I pressed down the edges to secure the tarts.

I laid ’em all out on a lightly buttered cookie sheet and baked ’em at 350 F for 15 minutes. They smelled awwwwe-some! As soon as they came out of the oven, all three of my guys hovered like buzzards for a taste!

I did end up using only about half of the apple mixture, but I found a way to use that up, too. Let me know if you decide to try these, and what you think of ’em! 🙂

Apple, Peanut Butter & Oatmeal Cookies

I don’t know about you, but the price of school lunch is ridiculous here.  After my boys went back to school last fall, I decided to do away with school lunch (including the cost and absurdly small portions) and began making my boys’ lunches instead.  Mine are teenagers with raging appetites that match their raging hormones (can you say at-ti-toooood?!), and their stomachs are bottomless pits.  I always make their breakfast at home, but whenever they eat lunch at school, by the time they get home they’re starving again and raid the fridge.  For food.  As in complete meals, not just snacks.  *sigh*

I didn’t just dive into making peanut butter sandwiches and tossing an apple into their bags.  I wanted to make lunches that weren’t only yummy and healthy, but I wanted to give them more variety than just plain old sandwiches every day.  Every weekend, I go ahead and make the dessert portion of their lunches for the week – usually cookies.  I love it when they come home and tell me that their friends fought them for a bite of my cookies.  Every week, J’s friends ask him what his mom is making for lunch. 😉

I figured I’d go ahead and knock out the cookies this afternoon so that I could relax for the rest of my Saturday night.  I haven’t gone grocery shopping yet this month, so the pickin’ was slim.  As I scanned the pantry, my eyes fell upon that unopened canister of rolled oats, then dropped to the jar of peanut butter below it.  Oatmeal peanut butter cookies?  Yes, I decided.  With chocolate chips, too?  No.  Apples?  Yes, apples!  I found them on sale at Bi-Lo – $1.99 foApplesr 5 pounds of Granny Smith.  J loves apples but since he got his braces on last June, he can’t just chomp into ’em anymore.  But apples cooked in cookies?  Oh, heck yes.

So I set about making some apple, peanut butter & oatmeal cookies.  You can call ’em whatever you like.  I tried to think of some witty combination to create a name for these, but I failed.  Regardless of the name, they’re a hit with my guys.  They were “omg’ing” over the dough before it was even cooked.  That’s a good sign, right?  😉

Start off by chopping your apples.  That’s gonna take a bit of time if you do it like I do – by hand with a knife using no special gadgets.  You’re going to want about 1 1/4 cups, or about 2 medium sized apples, chopped into small cubes.

diced apples

Up next – butter and sugar.  This is probably a good time to tell you that your butter should be softened.  For the life of me, I can never, ever remember to take my butter out and let it soften on its own.  Trick from a mama with good intentions and a bad memory?  Stick it in the microwave in a bowl for about 30 seconds.  😉

*Can I just take a sec to tell y’all how much I adore my little Cake Boss measuring cups?!  They’re totally adorbs and are so cheerful lookin’.  They literally make me smile.*

Cream together 1 cup of butter and 1 cup of sugar until fluffy.  You’ll probably do this in a nice, fancy schmancy stand mixer like this fantastical KitchenAid I’d love to have.  *hint, hint if you’re reading this, dear hubby*  But for now, I’ll keep using my 5-year old yet trusty ol’ Black & Decker hand mixer. 😉

Once you’re good and fluffy, add in 1/2 tablespoon of vanilla and 1 large egg. Continue mixing, and make sure you scrape the sides occasionally so it’s all blended.

In a large bowl, sift together 3 cups of all-purpose flour, 1/2 tablespoon of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

 Now the magic happens!  Add your creamed butter/sugar/egg mixture to your flour mixture, and mix until well combined.  It’s going to look a little weird, kind of crumbly and coarse.  I almost freaked out at this point, but don’t worry – keep going.  It’s going to work out juuuust fine.  (I got distracted and forgot to take a photo at this point, but you’ll see how it looks below.)

This is the time to melt your 1/3 cup of peanut butter.  I nuked mine for 30 seconds in the microwave and it was perfect.  You can use any brand of peanut butter,but my crew loves Peter Pan and that’s what I had.

Add that to your dough and mix well.  At this point, my mixer was struggling.  The dough was just too thick, so I gave up, set the mixer aside, and used my hands to incorporate everything.  (See the crumbly texture here that I mentioned earlier?)

After you’ve had some fun kneading and rolling the dough around (I was reminded of days long ago when I’d sculpt masterpieces from Play-Doh), add your 1 1/4 cups of chopped apples and 1/2 cup of oats and keep on mixing.

Roll out two sheets of wax paper, and divide your cookie dough in half.  Take one half and shape it into a log on one end of your wax paper, then roll it up.  Repeat with the other half. Stick ’em in the freezer for about half an hour.  Now’s a good time to clean up some of those dishes you’ve dirtied, or you can do what I did, and hit Pinterest instead.  😉

Once your dough is good and chilled, take out one log at a time and unroll it from the wax paper.  I used a serrated knife to slice the dough about 1/2 inch thick.

I lined my baking sheet with foil for easier cleanup.  Zap it with some cooking spray, and lay your cookies out.  You don’t have to worry about spacing, because they don’t spread out when they bake.  (I learned this after the first batch was done.)

Bake at 350 F for 18 minutes.  Of course all ovens are different, so you may want to keep an eye on yours.  These cookies aren’t going to get very brown on top, but the bottoms will be golden.  Repeat with the other roll of dough, and try not to eat the first batch while the second is baking!  You guys, these things smelled ahh-mazing while they were baking!  Hubby came in from hunting just as the first batch finished up and was like OMG!

They turned out with a kind of shortbread cookie texture.  On first bite, you taste the peanut butter, then the apple kicks in.  My guys didn’t have enough thumbs to rate these cookies!  Since I’ve been working on writing this, I think the entire first batch has completely disappeared; they didn’t stand a chance.  Now I must go wrap up and hide the second batch so the boys have a nummy dessert for their lunches this week!

Let me know if you try these and what you think of ’em!  🙂

Life Without Chemicals, Pt. 1- Baking Soda

Do you ever wonder if all those chemicals you’re using to clean your house are having toxic effects on you, or worse – your children?  So many people I know don’t think twice about reaching for that familiar white jug to pour into their laundry, down the toilets, or – OMG – into a sinkful of water to “clean” their fruit and veggies.

I used to be the same way, except for putting my food in it.  After all, nothing could be clean unless my nose was burning from the fumes and tears were streaming down my cheeks, right?  Wrong.

I was 22 when I began to notice that the cleaners I’d always used were beginning to bother me.  Like, really bother me, you guys.  Just opening a bottle of bleach sent out enough fumes to make my eyes burn and flood, and I’d literally burn from my nostrils, down my throat and all the way into my lungs.  Within a year, I had to stop using everything from bleach to Windex to kitchen cleaners.  I couldn’t even pump my own gas anymore.

I was later diagnosed with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity.  Over the years, I continued to become more and more sensitive to regular household items.  I had to stop pouring the laundry detergent myself and assigned the job to my dear hubby.  No more air freshener sprays, although candles and wax melts still don’t bother me – yet.  *Knock on wood.*  I had to stop painting my fingernails and toenails.  I haven’t colored my hair in nearly 18 years.

Just walking into some stores sends me spinning on my heels and heading right back out the door.  Grocery stores are the worst.  My poor, dear hubby has had to assume several of my roles, but he has been such a good sport about it.  He doesn’t completely understand it all, but he puts up with my craziness and tries to help me avoid my triggers.

I WILL say that in the years since I’ve stopped using regular cleaners, my boys and I have only had the flu ONCE.  And that was after being baptized.  In the river.  In January.  In. The. Freezing. Cold.  I can’t say for certain that there’s a connection, but I do notice that my friends and relatives who are besties with the toxics have kids who are always sick.  Form your own opinion there.

You’re probably wondering what I clean with if I can’t use all of these glorious, toxic chemicals.  You’d be surprised.  And they work.  AND, even better – you probably already have most of these things in your pantry.


Baking Soda: This has got to be my absolute go-to for everything.  Baking soda has hundreds of uses; some you’re probably familiar with and others you may have never heard of.  It’s my best friend, y’all.  Seriously.

Okay, so how to I replace those expensive store-bought cleaners with a fifty-cent box of baking soda?  These are my three favorite uses for baking soda:

  • Cleaning the kitchen sink – Like many other people, we have a stainless steel kitchen sink.  Over time, it can get pretty gross.  Daily pouring of leftover coffee down the drain, making tea, dumping old sodas, and who knows what else can turn those pretty shiny sinks to a dull brown color, especially around the drains.  Here’s whatcha do.  Wet the sink entirely, then sprinkle a generous layer of baking soda around the bottom.  This is where it’s gonna take a bit of elbow grease.  Just think of it as exercise to burn off the calories from that cookie.  😉  Using a sponge, scrub away at that sucker, re-wetting and/or adding more baking soda as needed.  Spray or wipe away the baking soda residue with plain water, and watch that sink shine!  *For extra freshness, use lemon juice to scrub with the baking soda, and rinse with water as usual.
  • Cleaning toilets – This has GOT to be one of the most disgusting (and my least favorite) chores ever.  Really, y’all.  Can you honestly tell me you can clean a toilet without thinking about what goes in there?!  Gross.  But even these suckers can shine without dumping a gallon of some toxic chemical down their refuse-gobbling pieholes.  Once a week (or more often, depending on – well, you know), sprinkle a decent layer of baking soda straight into the bowl.  I don’t normally measure, but it’s not much – not even half a box.  Pour some regular white distilled vinegar in over the baking soda (again, I don’t measure, but just enough to make it bubble).  Let it sit for at least half an hour, longer if you have time.  Scrub with a toilet brush.  If you’re wondering about sanitizing while cleaning, vinegar actually has disinfecting properties.  It’s not as effective as bleach, but it does kill germs.  I’ll be covering uses for vinegar later,  on so stay tuned. 😉
  • Cleaning stovetops – There’s nothing better than a good supper than having to clean up the mess you made while cooking it, right?  Umm, wrong.  I LOVE all things clean, but I’m a slob in the kitchen, y’all.  You would not believe the messes I make in just one meal.  I can’t stir a pot of anything without splashing food onto the stovetop, and of course I’m too busy to wipe it away right then, so it ends up dried on.  I have a smooth-top stove, but I’m guessing this could work with regular ranges too; you’ll just have to get creative.  Sprinkle a thin layer of baking soda over the entire surface.  Take a couple kitchen towels dampened with warm water, and lay them flat over the baking soda.  You’re gonna want to go do something else for a little while (like wash those dishes!).  When you come back, use the wet towels to wipe up the baking soda and gunk that has now released its death grip on your cooktop.  🙂

Over the next few days and weeks, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite and most effective natural cleaning ideas with you, so stay tuned!

I’m still here…

I’ve barely had a moment to myself lately, let alone time to blog. I have been so busy helping out with Daddy, taking care of my own house and family, and trying to get my business kicked off for the year.

I told B last week that I’m *thisclose* to falling off the edge of sanity. Stress is killing me. I’m exhausted all of the time. In spite of trying to eat as well as I can, as of this morning I’m down to 109 pounds. I keep having episodes in which I can barely breathe and they scare the hell out of me. I don’t know if it’s from my hiatal hernia, gas, or if I’ve finally gotten lung cancer from smoking too much. I know I need to quit, and on the less stressful days I’m able to space the cigarettes out a little further between.

I can’t believe almost two months have passed since Mama died. In spite of what I thought and felt in the beginning, it has begun to get a little easier. I still miss her so much, but less of my days are spent crying now. I almost feel guilty that it doesn’t hurt as badly as it did. Should I? I’ve not forgotten her; I never will. Is it right that I am picking up the pieces and finding a way to move on without her?

Just as I am beginning to recover from one of the most tragic events of my life, I am also preparing for the next. Daddy’s health has declined rapidly since Mama left us. He’s weaker than ever, especially on the days he has dialysis. He spends most of his time sleeping now and doesn’t eat much. He took a spill on the curb while leaving dialysis two weeks ago and busted his head open. I talked to the head nurse at the dialysis center last week, and she told me that Daddy only has a couple of months left to live. I know that most doctors and nurses don’t like putting time frames on life and death, so I’m assuming she’s pretty sure about that otherwise she wouldn’t have told me.

I feel pretty much alone in life now. The one person I could always call and talk to is gone. B spends most of his time preoccupied with hunting, video games, or tv. When he’s not, he’s so grouchy I’d rather just avoid him. O is almost as bad. I anticipated the teenage angst, but some days it’s more than I can handle. I wonder if he knows he can make me feel like crap with a single word or look. J is still my lil’ buddy, but even he is in the beginnings of the same thing. It’s depressing that my little boys are growing up and don’t need me so much anymore. What will I do with myself?

I read Mama’s journal, and fear that I will end up as lonely and miserable as she was. Sure, she and Daddy were married for 53 years, but it wasn’t so happy. She felt forgotten and unneeded by her family when she wrote in that journal almost 20 years ago… I’m beginning to feel the same way. My heart aches for her when I read her words, and I kick myself for having had no idea back then just how much a hug or a talk from me would have meant to her.

Here’s to loneliness… there’s nothing quite like it to force you into figuring out who and what you are when no one else seems to care.


I made it through my first Christmas without Mama. Honestly, I stayed too busy to let it bother me for very long.

We picked Daddy up yesterday so that he could spend a couple of days and nights with us and the boys. My brother had to work Christmas Eve night and tonight, so I invited Daddy to come join us for the holiday. He’s in such bad shape, this very well may have been his last Christmas with us.

I was the first one to wake this morning, at 8:24. I couldn’t believe the boys were still sleeping. I got up and dressed, and opened the blinds in the living room and kitchen. There was a heavy fog across the front yard, and the skies were dreary. I went to have my first blissful smoke of the morning and by the time I came back in, J was awake. He picked his head up from his pillow where he had slept on the couch (Daddy took his bed), and drawled out a “Merry Christmas!” in that twangy little accent of his.

I went to wake B and grab my camera. He got the coffee pot going while we waited for Daddy and O to get up and gather in the living room around the tree with J. After coffee was poured for the grownups, the fun began. We couldn’t afford to get the boys a lot this year because of having to help pay for Mama’s funeral, but they were so happy with what they got. O got a 550 cord bracelet, a Bear Grylls knife he wanted, another collector’s knife, an ACU wallet, and an Android tablet. J got a 550 cord bracelet, a new camo saxophone strap, a saxophone t-shirt, an ACU wallet, and an Android tablet. They also got a few new board games to share (with all of us actually, considering we play together).

I made breakfast – pancakes with homemade syrup, scrambled eggs (fresh from our hens), and sausage. We enjoyed our time together, talking and laughing. I cleaned up after breakfast, threw away the wrapping paper, swept the kitchen, and vacuumed the living room. I knew if I didn’t stay on top of things the house would be completely trashed by the end of the day. A messy house stresses me out – guess I got that from Mama.

I got started on the next round of cooking. My brother and his un-girlfriend were coming around lunchtime, and at that point, I didn’t know who else might stop by. B threw a pork shoulder on the grill to smoke, and I began peeling potatoes for potato salad. It’s one of my signature dishes. Everyone asks me to make it for every function. I made it the same way Mama made hers, but even she used to tell me that mine was better.

B’s mom and sister dropped by, bearing gifts for us and the boys, and subsequently, my taters were also dropped for a while. The boys and B got some new shirts, framed family photos, and other random doohickeys. I got a few inspirational books, an insulated Thirty-One bag, a new Thirty-One camera strap cover, a couple of decorative rooster plates, a digital photo keychain… I think that’s all.

I was grateful, but I just couldn’t be cheerful. I’m still having a hard time being around anyone else who is with their mother at the same time. It’s a huge, painful reminder that I don’t have a mother anymore. I felt terribly uncomfortable, and wished they’d leave.

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