Tag Archive: karyn bowman


Christmas Porch

Decorating the front of my house always feels like a challenge. 

Porch Xmas signI am a simple girl, not quite a minimalist but definitely not a ‘more is more’ kind of person. I like it simple and not over done. In fact, when I decorate at work I get it to the point where I like it and then add three more elements. That way I know it is what it should be, what is expected for Christmas decorations. 

This last fall, I saw a porch decoration for fall in Better Homes and Gardens that really fit my vibe. So I copied it as much as I could. I didn’t have the super thick rope or the grapevine balls.

I had orange lights and orange rope. I had other pieces of halloween decoration and pumpkins. Once I put it together, I was really happy, it was simple and elegant. It wasn’t over done.

But now it’s Christmas.

Christmas seems to say excess, maybe scream it a little.

porch-xmas-wreath.jpg

So what did I do?

I stayed in my comfort zone.

I kept the orange rope, changed out for white lights, changed out the wreath, and added a Christmas sign where I had a Halloween ‘beware.’

A part of me thinks about adding some pine cones to the rope. And then I re-think when I consider all of the work involved. Now that school is done for the semester I want to be lazy.

I am making cookies, watching movies, and thinking about switching around that one troublesome part of my book to make it flow better. My plans include buckeyes and peanut butter cookies with chocolate stars in the centers. If I get lucky, there might be some Rumchatta chocolate pudding. 

But still, it’s pretty isn’t it? And it is a start of Christmas Cheer, even when this might be as far as I get.

Porch Christmas

Dear Jane,

I am so sorry for missing these birthday letters. Life has been crazy busy while I was taking two classes this past semester.

My relaxation is watching movies and listening to audio books. Where ever you are these days, do you get a chance to listen to these? I have learned to love them but it really depends on who is doing the reading to make it good or not. Some books done this way can be quite dreadful, especially if the reader doesn’t get the main character.

One book I listened to recently made the two main characters too giggly f

Still Life Audio

or the situations or their own character traits. That to me is really annoying, The other annoying thing is when the speaker’s volume is very loud for one character and very soft for another who are in the same scene. This happened in one book which lead me to turn up the volume for the soft character only to have to quickly turn it down for the next who’s voice was booming.

Well, if you can, I would suggest the Inspector Gamache series on audio. Louise Penny has centered these books in the town of Three Pines, an English settlement in the Quebec province. Our Inspector is French Quebecois but apparently speaks English quite well. These mysteries definitely have an Agatha Christie feel to them. There are many books in this series, each a gem. If you can, get the ones narrated by Ralph Cosham who passed away in 2014.

pride-prejudice-zombies-trailer-poster1Another thing you might want to catch if you can is a movie version of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Is this a great movie? Well, no. But Lily James gives a spirited performance as Lizzie who is an excellent fighter. I think you would be proud of her and this version of your book. I still don’t understand the proposal/fight scene. You will have to watch it to see what I mean. I think it is perfect for watching with teenage or older children, if they don’t mind zombie movies.

But it is your birthday and I hope that your special day is just that. I pray you get some cake and a bit of fun. It seems hard to believe that you lived for a short time and I am now older than you got to be. But your legacy has lived on and inspired so many others. I don’t think any of us can say thank you enough.

Wishing you the happiest of birthdays and a wonderful lazy day to dream of the next book,

Sincerely, your devoted friend, etc.

 

 

 

Study Music

For the last two years I have been working towards a certificate called a Library Technical Assistant.

It was a part of the condition of my job that I have, that I am to be working towards this certificate if I didn’t already have it. It has been great in a lot of ways; I have learned so much about the world of libraries and researching. The course on technology nearly killed me even though I learned more about excel and word.

Through all of this I have learned to listen to music while I am writing which helps build a wall between me and wherever I might be working. Some days I find myself in a library because my home computers do not have Microsoft products.

My school bag keeps a set of ear buds in it at all times so I can plug in and get going on what ever project I am doing. Having that wall really helps depending on where the computer area located. Some are right next to the check out desk which means I get to hear all of these conversations as people check out or get their card renewed.

What am I listening to?

duranduran 1980sDuran Duran

I loved these guys back in the 80s when they first hit the big time. I loved dancing to their music and would have loved to have gone to a concert but I was a poor college student. 

To be honest, I still have no idea what The Reflex is or why we are waiting for the New Moon on Monday. Some of the lyrics make no sense and I have no idea how some of the videos connect to the song that they are emphasizing. At some point I decided not to care.

At some point I lost track of the guys. I got married, had a kid, got divorced, got remarried, listened to a lot of country music and Raffi. Had more kids.

Hello Bananaphone. Goodbye Duran Duran

Then one day at a garage sale I found a Duran Duran Greatest Hits album. The more I played it, the more my kids made fun of them but I didn’t care. I loved their music. Then for one of my classes, I did a research project on the boys. I found out that they are still making albums and interesting music despite breaking up, connecting with other musicians, and later re-connecting with the original five, and breaking up again. At this time four of the original musicians are still in the group.

Duran Duran GettyImages-todayThrough 2015 they have been creating new music, some of it reminiscent of their earlier stuff and other albums that moved on with more modern sounds. As I hear more and more of these songs, I find my self falling in love with their music over and over again. White Lines, What’s Gonna Happen Tomorrow, All You Need is Now, and Pressure Off are just a few of my new favorites. As much as I don’t appreciate the costumes in the video of Girl Panic, I find myself loving the song and the supermodels portraying the guys.

I listen to their music because the mid-tempo songs help my typing become quicker and easier. I feel happy when I am listening to it and that makes projects get put together much easier. I will admit that I could have never gotten through this program without the music of Duran Duran.

Everyone has a band or an artist that they love. For me it is Duran Duran. No apologies, no justification. Not sure if I really care if the rest of the world disagrees with me.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to go listen to Serious one more time.

Duran duran serious

Tom and Meg

Tonight I watched one of my favorite movies. It was made in 1998.

When did 1998 become twenty years ago?

It seemed like yesterday in the golden age of romantic comedies. But her I am, twenty years older, just like Meg and Tom.

Yes, I am on a first name basis with these two as are many women my generation. We watched them in Joe Vs. the Volcano, Sleepless in Seattle, and You’ve Got Mail.

I realize that Tom is really busy and Meg is taking time to work behind the scenes. But it is time for them to make a movie again.

Seriously.

They are a part of the Boomer generation and maybe it is time to see these two back in a romantic comedy. A romantic comedy in which the two people are the approximate same age going through similar circumstances with their business and family and life.

And I have the perfect vehicle for them.

It’s called Juliet and Romeo by Jeanne Ray.

Julie and RomeoThis book is about an couple whose families are life long enemies although no one is quite sure why. The both own flower shops and have large families. Julie is divorced while Romeo ‘s wife died a few years ago.

Their attraction begins while attending a seminar for small business owners who are struggling and need new ideas.

After seeing each other across a hallway, the two develop a bond. They fall crazy in love. But now they have to fight against old hatreds and new-fangled shenanigans from their children.

It feels like it could fit these two people who are now older but have feelings that are definitely something from when they were younger.

Now Meg and Tom would be the obvious choices for Julie and Romeo. But there are two daughters for Julie and several sons and a younger daughter for Romeo. And this could be fun casting. Personally, I would love to see Selena Gomez as Romeo’s younger daughter. She could hit that younger boho vibe with an iron will. You will need a few tough guys to play the oldest son and daughter on each side along with some star-crossed loved in that younger set.

I used to think Sandra Bullock would be great as the older daughter. But now I am thinking of someone else, perhaps Eva Mendez or Amanda Peet. Maybe Adam Driver could be Romeo’s older son who is a force to be reckoned with. He needs to lighten up sometimes. And for the old grandmother, you could go for the Italian stereotype or allow Betty White to do something besides the naughty old lady.

All I am saying is that Meg and/or Tom need to read this book and figure out how to make a fun movie out of it.

Is that so hard to do?

Halloween has become my favorite time of year.

The weather is not too hot and the snow hasn’t started yet, most years. This year we had a snowstorm on Halloween day with high winds later in the night. Some towns in my area put off Halloween trick or treating to Friday or Saturday.

I chose to celebrate with a little house decorating. Better homes and Garden showed a cute way to decorate the house using a thick hemp rope and big bulb lights. I had orange thin nylon rope and orange lights. Nor do I have the Grape vine balls they used and didn’t really show up in the picture. I might head to the thrift stores and see if I can find any to add to my porchscape.

Front Porch Halloween 2019

But I did find three ghosties at the dollar store to hang on the garland of rope and lights. Plus I had a fun sign to put on my pitchfork tines. I felt very halloween-y.

Now Halloween is over. The wind is blowing more. Time change has come and it was inky dark by 5:30. I m not ready to go full Christmas. Which was OK because the BH&G issue showed how to make this ready for thanksgiving.

 

Front porch post halloween 2019

 

I removed the ghosties and other Halloween elements. The pumpkins can stay till they are eaten or become too mushy to live on the steps. I need a new sign to hang on the tines, something in the order of “Give Thanks” or “Welcome Friends.” The orange lights get to stay until the Christmas lights go up.

Maybe I need a big fat turkey.

Gobble, Gobble.

Oh, no she didn’t. . .

Once upon a time, I wrote movie reviews.

I still watch a ton of movies. I still love romantic comedies.

I told one of my classmates in my LTA program that I used to write reviews. And the question she asked was interesting. She wanted a list of romantic comedies in which the heroine wasn’t stupid, or the plot wasn’t stupid.

Go Red Brooch 29 shop heart com

Rhinestone Dress Brooch ($29.00); picture from http://www.shop.heart.com

My immediate thought was don’t watch a single Kate Hudson romantic comedy. I never watch her movie with Anne Hathaway but I felt pretty certain it was awful, too. What disappoints me is that in Almost Famous Hudson was great, luminous and raw. I could have watched her all day.

So as I thought Bout this list, I realized I was starting way back. I am not going into the silent movies but there are a few from the 1930s that are must sees.

I would start with My Man Godfrey (1936) starring Carole Lombard as the ditzy rich girl who is only interested in partying during the depression. It takes their new butler Godfrey, played by William Powell, to help her figure out life is about something more. This is one of the first screwball comedies but a classic as we know what will happen with a few surprises.

Because they apparently worked well together, Grant and Hepburn starred in The Philadelphia Story (1940) just two years later. Here a divorced couple meet up again just before her wedding to another man. Because it is a society wedding, reporter Jimmy Stewart shows up with his girl friday. Snappy dialogue along with plenty of drinking makes for a lot of fun,

To be honest my next pick is a Christmas movie but I find that Barbara Stanwyck is still one of the

Christmas in Connecticut IMDb com

Picture from IMDb.com

smartest actresses I’ve ever watched. In Christmas in Connecticut (1945),  Stanwyck is a Martha Stewart-like writer without the farmhouse, husband, baby, or the ability to cook. Then her publisher (Sydney Greenstreet) wants to spend Christmas with her and invites a recently recovered war vet. Stanwyck invents a husband, farm, and baby. She then promptly falls in love with the soldier.

For whatever reasons, my next pick doesn’t come until the late 80s. But if you haven’t seen Roxanne (1987) starring Steve Martin and Darryl Hannah, you might learn to love this Cyrano redo. Martin plays a firechief in a small mountain town who happens to have a big nose. Hannah is a lovely astronomer who come to town for the summer to relax. During the scene when Martin invents 20 insults that someone could have used, start counting because I think there are more than 20.

An article like this has to mention When Harry Met Sally (1987) and Sleepless in Seattle (1993). These are two of the smartest and funny romantic comedies I have ever seen. Before I go to my favorite, my honorable mentions goes to Return To Me (2000) starring Minnie Driver and David Ducovney as well as While You Were Sleeping (1995) with Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman. Love these and will Watch them again and again.

Forget Paris IMDb com

Poster image from IMDb.com

But one of my favorite romantic comedies is Forget Paris (1995) starring Billy Crystal as an NBA ref who meets Debra Winger in Paris and falls immediately in love. Instead of being about the ramp up to a relationship, this movie gives us the after with ups, downs, and constant curves. THe Pigeon scene still makes me laugh as does Cynthia Stevenson.

Please share your picks for great romantic comedies with smart heroines in the comment section.

 

 

 

Flowers, Birds, and Butterflies

Last week, we had a garage sale.

There wasn’t a lot of stuff put out and traffic was slow. People were expecting fishing stuff and my husband didn’t have a lot left.

So I sat under a tree with my phone and crochet in the hopes I would get started on a blanket for my niece. What I ended up doing was watching the birds and butterflies visit my pollinator garden.

cup plant silphiumperfoliatumThe goldfinches were enjoying the mini sunflower clusters of the Cup plant. They moved back and forth, hiding from me and my camera, as they hung upside down carefully eating the seeds. The sparrows and other small birds left them alone to eat from the bird feeders hanging off of the porch.

Meanwhile, the monarchs were flitting around the milkweed. They would float around the tiger lilies and hollyhocks. But they actually stop on the milkweed, stopping for a moment before running away again.

I tried to imagine what music could be played to fit the movements and I kept hearing the soundtrack of My Neighbor Totoro. I could see Mae, the little sister, tracking and dancing with the butterflies.

Earlier in the spring and summer, I worked to limit the number of cup plants in my garden. I had to dig them out to ensure the cup plants did not exceed their area. These six foot tall plants with small flower heads grow fast and require a good shovel to remove them.

milkweed-plant-monarch-butterfly.jpgI was removing them while trying to retain the milkweed. The flowers were small pink clusters but now they are done and seed pods are forming. I keep looking for caterpillars. I see none but I do see holes in the leaves.

I hope those Japanese beetles didn’t do too much damage while they were here. I did my best to get rid of them by pushing them into a bath of warm water and Dawn dish washing liquid. I found them on the milkweed and hollyhocks. They dastardly bugs nearly killed my hollyhocks a few years ago. and they really whacked my rose bush a few years before that.

I thoughJapanese-Beetle-Picturet about getting a trap but the husband told me it would attract every Japanese beetle in the neighborhood. I didn’t need that. But the little swimming pool worked out well. I put gardening gloves so I wouldn’t have to feel those creepy little things.

I am not sure a pollinator garden was my intent. This is a sunny area that has been filled in with purple cone flowers, blackberry lilies, tiger lilies, among a few. Next year, if we are still in this house, I am planning to put some Russian sage in an empty spot to bring in a bit of blue and remove hollyhock so that the lower part of the garden will get more space.

Over the years I have learned that gardens are ever changing, ever growing or shrinking, depending on how much effort you put into it. As the season begins to wind down, I have to wonder what next year will bring.

Girl, Wash Your Face

I recently read the book Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis.

I have to admit I had a love/hate relationship with this book. I wanted to love all of it. I wanted to love everything she had to say. But I didn’t.

Girl wash your faceIn fact, there were times I wanted to stop listening. Maybe it was the chapter on sex and the chapter on telling yourself to say no to a bad relationship or figuring out when that glass of wine becomes needful instead of wanted. .

The book is set up on the essential lies we tell ourselves, lies that Hollis has told herself over the years. She shares a lot of her life, willingly telling us the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Much of it is poignant, and sometimes I feel as if I am getting too much information despite her best efforts to keep it vague.

But Hollis always comes back to how she propelled herself to a solution She might have a faith-based solution or portion of the story to share.

As the book repeatedly came back to my library, I noticed who was talking about it. Then I started asking question about how they liked it.  It was a fifty/fifty proposition. Some people loved it while others were willing to read  just to get it done. This caused people to say they thought they would relate to her and were surprised when it didn’t go that way.

Some people liked the mild spiritual writings while others wanted it to be more ‘there.”

Maybe some people resented the spirituality. Others thought it could have been more.

Some people just don’t get it, some wished it wasn’t so much about Hollis despite this being her life story.

In the end I did take away a few things. Get together with friends, forget the “i’m too busy not to” excuse. Another was to make goals, set time limits to make your dreams happen instead of just saying you will get to it. Everything in this book is not going to speak to you so take what works or makes sense to you.  The biggest take-away is that we need to honest with ourselves to make our lives more joy-filled.

Was it the greatest, maybe not but I did listen to it getting more inflection from the author.I would still refer this to my younger friends. As for the older women, I would say read it. You will get something out of it.

 

 

Rice Pudding

My husband loves to watch cooking shows.

And we watch them all.

Because of these shows, I have worked to try new foods and new recipes. Which can be difficult because the family does not like to try new things. I always make sure there is an old favorite along so the new thing isn’t a total disaster.

As some of you know, I have been fighting Type Two Diabetes for the last few years. I am always trying to find ways to make old favorites amenable to the new way of life. The family is not always happy about these changes. I am the only one who like brown rice. And no one was interested in cauliflower/mashed potatoes mixture.

rice-pudding-end-product.jpg

They don’t really like rice pudding, well a few of them. But while watching Milk Street on PBS, I saw a recipe utilizing mango and knew I had to try it.

The Senagalese Mango and coconut rice pudding also includes coconut milk and shredded coconut.

This is suppose to add more flavor while reducing the amount of sugar in the dish. Sometimes it feels as if I am always looking for the holy grail of foods that allows me to have what I like without the damage of carbs.

Now, there is a small part of me that is fiercely anti-creating old favorites when you have turned a new leaf – voluntarily – foodwise. Vegan burgers, vegan chicken nuggets, vegan cheese make no sense to me. I also don’t understand why you want to re-create the taste and texture of a food you are no longer eating for moral reasons.

We had a long discussion over the dinner table about this in which my daughter who should become a lawyer argued that I am doing the same with my mashed caulifower, dark chocolate, and no bread rule.

rice-pudding-ingrediants.jpgNope, I am not doing the same because I am making changes by force and not due to want. Bread and pasta are slowly being eliminated from my diet. I recently had a unwich from Jimmy John’s and liked it. I didn’t miss the bread, almost.

I used to eat more pasta but I have asked my husband to serve those meals on the nights I am at school. I eat a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables. I think about going Keto but the lack of beans really doesn’t satisfy my taste buds. Nor do I want to ask my family to make that huge jump for me.

I am willing to adapt old favorites. So when I printed out this recipe, I was able to decide how to adapt or change based on what was available to me. Coconut milk, right there. Unsweetened coconut. Not so much so I ended up using a sweetened version.

Rice Pudding - toasting coconutBefore I even started the first step, I made sure everything was poured out and ready to go. Knowing that toasting coconut can be tricky, I wanted everything to ready to go.

So when my pan was ready to go. I poured in the coconut and stirred.

Walked away, stirred again.

Tried not to get too anxious. Stirred again.

Took a picture. Stirred some more.

Waited, let more than half of it finally get brown.

This takes place in a minute and a half. Maybe two minutes.

rice-pudding-sauce.jpgSo I pour in the coconut milk, finally. Sugar, vanilla, and salt go into the pot as well.

The recipe says to let it get to a simmer.

Then I am supposed to let it stay on medium heat for five minutes.

So I stir and walk away. I take a nice picture.

Gwen is cutting up the Mango for me and I show her how to score the fruit once the sides are cut up.

I stir a little more and deem it ready for the next step. You want it to reduce a little bit but not too much. Once that is done, you add the rice.

I had a mixture of Basmati and white rice. They were leftovers from a taco meal. The Basmati may have been leftovers from another meal. The point is it needed to be used up. So I put it all in which was just a little more than the two cups required by a quarter cup.

rice-pudding-final-additions-and-simmer.jpgThen I added a cup of water. This is not in the list of ingredients but it was in the instructions. So I put it all in the pot at a nice little simmer.

The directions said to simmer for about 15-20 minutes to get it to a nice semi-thick consistency.

So I stirred and walked away. I put away all of the ingredients. I got bowls and spoons out. I stirred the pot.

I put the mangos on the table. My husband lamented there was no whipped cream. I stirred the pot after rolling my eyes. When there was more rice than liquid and almost but not quite sticking to the bottom, I turned off the burner.

I had decided not to do the camelized honey for the mangos because I wanted less sugar. I am sure it would have taken no time at all. In fact, I could have done it while the pudding was on it’s last simmer. Have two teaspoons of honey in a skillet and at the right moment throw in the fruit of a cut up mango.

But I didn’t.

With a 1/4 cup of reserved liquid of the sauce mixture, we added the mangos to the rice pudding in our bowls.

So good. and there were no leftovers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memory Pillow

We all want keepsakes of our loved ones even when, or especially when, they are gone.

My father died four years ago.

I can’t believe it still and I know it happened.

Sometimes I smell his cologne around the house, sometimes it is pipe tobacco.

But I also wanted something tangible of his to hold. That’s when I saw shirt pillows.

pillow chairYou take a loved one’s shirt and convert it into a pillow. To make it easier to wash the insert or replace it, a zipper is placed at the bottom of the pillow.

I took one of Dad’s favorite shirts, with Mom’s permission of course, to make into a pillow. The patterns I saw called for a 16″ pillow. But Dad was a big guy and we came to realize that an 18″ pillow was going to work much better.

Making the pattern was the easy part. I cut out an 18″ square out of newspaper. Originally I thought I was going to make a 16″ pillow and created that patter piece in the same way. But we quickly realized the pockets would be cut on the ends. Mom didn’t want that so I went two inches bigger.

pillow pattern cut outOnce I placed the pattern on the shirt and pinned it down, it came for the really hard part.

I had to cut the shirt.

In cutting the shirt I had to admit to myself just how real this all is. Dad is not coming back. He is not going to come around the corner quacking at me or the kids. He is not going to say “It’s too damn hot” or “it’s too damn cold.”

The door to the house will not open and he will not walk through. Cutting the shirt seemed more final than when we spread his ashes.

I had to wait until I was back home before I threw out the remains of the shirt. I couldn’t do it at Mom’s house where I made the project. All in all, it took me an hour to get the courage to cut around the pattern, giving it a half inch seam allowance.

pillow front stitch downAs I began to work on the shirt, I followed the good advice of my friend, Steve. It was tempting to simply leave the shirt able to open at the buttons. But puckering was a concern. Steve suggested that I sew down the button over lap, making it look like top stitching.

Another great suggestion was to put in the zipper before I created all of the side seams. That way the zipper is in before trying to make it fit. Once the zipper was in, all I had to do was create the side seams with a traditional 5/8 sewing line.

To be safe I did a zigzag stitch along the edges just to make sure there would be no raveling of material. After that, it was a matter of waiting for the pillow form to come from Amazon. Once it did, all I had to do was fluff the pillow form, bend it in half, and zip up the closure.

pillow finished

If I had to do it again, I would top stitch along the zipper for less gap. I can always go back and do that.

I might have used a 19″ pillow to fill out the corners better and to have a more pop of pillow fluffiness.

Otherwise, this went well. It only took a few hours in real time. I did have to take a while since it was the first time I made this project. Steeling your courage without alcohol takes time.

While I have some of his other shirts in quilted flannel, they are not going to get the shirt treatment. They are too warm to cut up.

Still, it makes for a great memory keepsake, especially when you need a little warmth or hug back.

pillow supplies

 

Supplies

1 Shirt

Matching or coordinating thread

Zipper – I had a 16″ zipper because that is what I planned initially. I would go with 1-2 inches shorter than the form size you plan to use.

Pins

Pattern

Pillow Form – On inch bigger than your pattern for a bigger fit.

Seam ripper – for all necessary unsewing