Thursday, August 14, 2014

At last, my novel has a face!

Hey readers!

I know I'm going about this all backwards and that I should have a bunch of fellow bloggers release this at the same time with lots of pomp and fanfare and confetti, but since the rules are more like 'guidelines' - I have something VERY SPECIAL to show you.

Drum roll please....

INTRODUCING- 

The cover for my novel, ASHBURN. 
I designed it myself. 
(comments, thoughts... do you like it?!? I DO!)

Release date coming soon! I'll be in the final editing process for the next few weeks, but I am self-publishing this book to Kindle and CreateSpace on Amazon in paperback form. After a lot of procrastination, the time has come to share it with the world!

If you are a fellow blogger and are interested in an interview or a review copy of my book, (Or want to splash my pretty book cover on your blog or website!)... please let me know. I would greatly appreciate any support and help to spread the word about this exciting story. :)

Also, I'm pretty sure I want to hang out a shingle as a graphic designer and start doing book covers and other projects for real, live customers. More info on that coming soon as well. :)

Delightedly yours,

Thursday, July 3, 2014

"I've Got a Lov-e-ly Bunch of Co-co-nuts..."



SO, this eating healthier thing? PIECE OF CAKE! *cough* I mean, not cake... chicken. Ha. Cake is most definitely off-limits for a while.

The hardest part is over... the decision to start. That's always the biggie for me, and the rest is all downhill from there.

I've been reading this fabulous book called "I Want What SHE'S Having" which has been extremely encouraging. I'm pretty sure the authors are secular but aside from that, the book was loaded with great advice about motivation, figuring out what works for you, and basic common-sense health facts, although they never come right out and say what diet plan is the best. The whole point is to do whatever works for YOUUU, and stick to it. (And no, I was not provided a review copy, I just mentioned it because I liked it!)

So here was day 3 of my new lifestyle:

In the morning I woke up hungry, so I snacked on 5 cashews/almonds as I made breakfast for everybody.

I also drank a HUGE glass of water, something I try to do right after I wake up and hop on the bathroom scale. It helps rejuvenate and refresh your system and get things going! :)

Breakfast for moi was scrambled eggs, (which I eat for breakfast 99.99% of the time) a nectarine - my one fruit for the day, a cheese stick - cheddar and mozzarella combined, and a couple of pecan halves sprinkled with seasonings. {forgot to get a photo}

Went for a 6-lap powerwalk/sprint up and down our very long gravel driveway and finished sweating but triumphant! Booyah!

Mid-morning snack:
About 10 walnut pieces, with a little dollop of cottage cheese sprinkled with garlic powder, salt, onion powder and a touch of paprika. If you haven't guessed by now you'll quickly discover that I looooove my spices. :) Flavors, baby!! :D

Lunch was this delectable concoction: {also pictured at top of post to entice newsfeed readers}
I call it "Chicken Dijon Salad", featuring: romaine lettuce (half that bowl is lettuce, all the pretty stuff is just on top) chunks of cooked chicken (leftovers, ya'll) black and green olives, diced tomatoes, pickles (you can leave those out, I just happen to adore pickles) a couple of cashews and almonds, and a cheese stick cut up into little pieces.
Over this I drizzled Dijon Vinaigrette dressing that I whipped up following a recipe I spied in Better Homes and Gardens magazine. I was hesitant to try it as it honestly looked horrible (probably the fault of the extra virgin olive oil I used, being a very deep green color) and smelt rather awful, but after gingerly applying it to my salad and taking my first bite, I was relieved to find it very tasty and zingy. Yum. :)

How I made Dijon Vinaigrette: (FYI, I halved the recipe as I wasn't sure I'd like it)

Whisk together...

  • Half a Tablespoon of Dijon mustard (original recipe was 1 Tablespoon)
  • Half of 3/4 cup olive oil (which I guessed to be just under half a cup)
  • and 1/8 cup vinegar.

Easy-peasy. Seriously. :)

Mid-afternoon found me with mid-level hunger grumblies again (low-level ones I just ignore and drink some more water... and of course high-level ones mean it's a mealtime) so......

Mid-afternoon snack:
I told you I had a secret for eating celery sticks! I HATE raw celery, or I should say hated, although in soups I liked it. I discovered that if you spread a dab of cream cheese in the hollow of a celery stick and sprinkle it with spices (I used garlic, onion, and paprika, and if you want to get fancy, some cumin and cayenne make a kickin' addition) and VOILA - I love it. Creamy, cool, and crunchy. Perfect summer snack.

I used to think cream cheese was a guilty pleasure, but actually the bread and crackers I was eating it on were more to blame for any resulting weight gain. :P Although I still wouldn't recommend eating it every five minutes. :D

For DINNER...
I splurged and had my one carb for the day... a couple of our homemade french fries, fried in sunflower oil in our own CoolDaddy fryer. Accompanying them is a perfectly-grilled venison burger that is made with meat that my own daddy brought home after a hunting trip with friends. (Pretty cool.) Also tomatoes, pickles, carrots, and some cheddar to round it out.

Funny thing, once you stop eating sugar, your taste buds can sense every delicate nuance of your food. Unencumbered by the lightning-strike effects of super-sweet sugar, they are no longer dazed, but on high alert. I can taste that lettuce, those carrots, that meat. And it's so good. :D

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Importance of Being Healthy

Hey readers!

I did that thing. You know. When I let so much "LIFE" stack up in the pile of things-to-be-blogged-about that... I don't know where to start, so I semi-unconsciously decide not to blog. Oops. :)

But guess what? I'm doing a new thing. Well, not new, but slightly different. You see, since I'm to be a bridesmaid later this summer, I really want to look good in my lonnnng green dress. Which means I need to drop a few pounds (or at least transfer them from fat into lean muscle!) so I've altered a few things in my lifestyle.

For example, this was dinner:
"Pizza" Salad!
Featuring: Romaine and Iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, organic pepperoni, freshly grated mozzerella, pickles, olives both black and green, pecans and macadamia chips for crunch, and a very light sprinkle of olive oil, white vinegar, basil, oregano, and parmesan. 
I didn't follow a recipe, I just threw stuff together that I know tastes good. :D I do that a lot with salads, and it's a good thing I already like them, so it's no chore to eat one. Maybe I'll do a "salad series" and share what I create with you. :)

So what am I eating?

Basically, I am not eating any refined sugar whatsoever, even in a condiment like ketchup or peanut butter. I'm also trying not to eat more than one kind of fruit per day, as there is a large amount of naturally occurring fructose in it. I'm turning down the volume of how many carbs I consume (e.g. one carb a day instead of one with each meal AND snack) and instead adding more healthy fats to my diet.

Some great sources of healthy fats are: olives, nuts - especially macadamia and pecan, cheese, butter, and other non-sugary dairy. When your body burns fat as fuel, it's like a slow and even flame of burning logs, instead of the sharp UP-and-DOWN spikes of sugar and carbs (which actually convert almost instantly to sugar)... that are more like the flickering snap of a wad of paper or twigs.

I am trying not to eat more than one serving daily of: Bread, Pasta, Potatoes, Rice, or other grains. I am also trying to eat lots and LOTS of veggies. That is a bit of a challenge for me, because besides salads, I don't really enjoy vegetables. I did discover a secret to eating celery sticks which I shall share in a later post.

There's more info in this article if you're interested in a bit of research. :) You know, when you think about it, on average the general population DOES consume a scary amount of sugar and carbohydrates and thinks nothing of it. Not that I've gone off the deep *cough-paleo-cough* end, but moderation in all things, y'know? :)

Take care and stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Bit of {Dazzle}

Hey readers!

Aha! Another post from moi! This looks promising, no? :D I even have a picture in this post from a real live camera and not an iPhone, for once. :) 

I had the very great privilege of designing and creating customized earrings for the wedding I'm in that takes place in September, and I was SO THRILLED with the results. 
By the way, the bride, my dear darling friend McKenzie, is the girl who inspired me to start blogging in the first place after I read her blog, Pecan Pastures, back in 2008. Zounds. It's been forever and an age. :D

The other earrings are a secret surprise for the other bridesmaids, but since I have already seen mine... so can you! :D


I. am. in. LOOOOOVE with them. Oh joy and jubilation. I can't wait to post a picture of them on me, they flatter my oval face and make my green eyes glitter. EEK! I liked the "ombre" wave effect of light-to-dark on the crystal dangles so much that I knew I wanted to do it for mine. I'm a little proud of the fact that this pair is "very" handmade... I created the loopy link hanging horizontally in the middle out of an extra-long headpin.

*happy sigh*

Friday, June 13, 2014

Still Alive! {GHEA Convention 2014}

My lovely readers! Wish I could give you all a big hug and tell you how sorry I am for abandoning you (without notice, shame on me!) for the past few months!

{I would have blogged this post sooner, but we've had intermittent internet outages in the past week - very irksome, indeed! :P}


But I had an awfully good reason for my lack of blogging. I was swimming in beads, making hundreds of jewelry pieces to sell in my 10-foot-by-10-foot booth in the exhibit hall at the 2014 GHEA (Georgia Home Educators Association) in Atlanta.

So, because I've got lots of pictures, here's a blog post full of them! :)

We all arrived midafternoon in Atlanta and set up our booths in the vendor hall, working like a well-oiled machine. Practice makes perfect! I think this is the 5th year I've done it. :)

We checked into our hotel and crashed for about an hour - I took a catnap, knowing I would appreciate the extra rest, as I never sleep very well in hotel beds. I'm too used to my own. :)

Then we hit the mall! The boys went to the LEGO store - stunning the employees when they picked up the LEGO club magazine lying there and showed them their interview, having competed in the prestigious by-invitation-only Iron Builder contest. Pretty cool. I's extremely proud of 'em. :)

I went to Bath and Body works......... and they had just released some delectable summery scents, so I grabbed a few in travel-size bottles, which were on a special sale, and some Europe-inspired fragrances that were 50% off. :) I love that place too much. :D

Then all five of our family went to Bass Pro shop, and I ended up finding a pair of running shoes on sale in a brand that I know fits my feet best. (Yay! Motivation to exercise! I've already run nearly 4 miles in them and they're great!) :) I also had a crazy desire to get some of this pirate-themed hot sauce, but resisted. Confession: I love spicy food, and these were too hilarious. Look...

While we were there, I noticed that a scuba diver was cleaning the fish tank! They are in the center of the picture, that shiny tube is their air tank.

Back at the hotel, laden with our goods from the mall, we crashed again and ate dinner - tacos with all the fixin's that we packed in the cooler. We always bring a cooler on trips, and it saves so much time and money, plus we get to eat our favorite fresh foods, which are better for you anyway! :)

These are the lamps in the hotel lobby. It was a pretty place, which made up for the fact that they didn't serve breakfast. *sigh* If they'd had free breakfast, that would have been one of the best hotel stays EVER. :)
 (The next evening we were there, we'd packed venison burgers and had them with all their fixin's. Mine was so good I did that silly thing where you take a picture of your food that nobody wants to see anyway... so here it is)

So! Bright and early the next morning, we started selling stuff. Many of my customers from years before came by early, saying they'd come to me first to make sure they didn't miss out! It was very gratifying. :) And I was glad they did that, because it's true, pieces start moving and by the end of the 2nd day my selection is much more limited as the amount of jewelry decreases. Even though I bring a TON. :)

Hello! :) I really loved the outfit I put together for the first day. Aqua summery-print top with mint shrug, white flowy skirt, and white jewelry. :)

My booth! I was thrilled with how it looked this year. The addition of a chevron tablecloth (and finding my favorite tie-dye knit hot pink tablecloths) really made it POP. :) 

This is the necklace table, holding mostly pendants on chains and some pretty necklace and earring sets, as well as the floral cuff bracelets and the flower rings. I had to keep refilling the busts as they emptied when necklaces sold! 

GAHHHH I love these. MMM! I delight in making each one unique and perfect with tiny, special detail. 
The headbands were popular again this year! And I actually met a few girls who were wearing headbands they had bought from me LAST year! Too awesome. I get such a kick out of seeing people wearing my creations and loving them. :)

Half of the necklace racks... It's funny to look at these now and think "Oh, yep, that one sold, and that one, and that one....etc." :) 

The other half. All so pretty, all so different! :) I try to come up with something for every lady's style. NOT an easy task.

The beaded wire bracelets. A whole bunch of these sold too! 
 I tried to keep my prices ridiculously low this year to just get the jewelry to move... and it went! Things flew off the displays at a wild pace and I had many people telling me I should be charging more... I simply smiled, knowing that the more pieces I sold at a lower price, the better profit I was making. :)

My strategy worked, by the way. I topped last year's total by about a hundred dollars. YAY! Thank you, Lord!!! :)
I had some super-cute gift bags this year to give people when they purchased jewelry from me, which many of the women found absolutely charming. :D Hey, I'm all about shoppers having a delightful experience. :) I found them here on etsy. :)

Meeting fantastic people is seriously the best thing about these conventions. I made sure to get a photo with the amazing Mirriam, who is a fellow writer! Mirriam snagged some Celtic Knot-style chandelier earrings while she was at my booth. :) I also got to meet Katelyn S, one of my most faithful blog commenters!! It was so much fun socializing with her and her two sisters, who all bought lots of jewelry from me. Katelyn, if you're reading this, drop me a comment with your email address! We should get together sometime! :D

My poor feets. They got so sore and tired by the end of the convention! I don't know why, but standing in one small space all day long is torture on the soles of my feet. 
This is the chandelier earring rack. (On day 2, see the missing gaps?) There were 96 pairs of these, alone. I think I had around 500 pairs of earrings, total. 
 It was so cozy to get home and remember that I'd cleaned my room before I left, and hung twinkle-lights just because... which I quickly plugged in and smiled at.

 Yup. Definitely adds much-needed glimmer and sparkle. :) All the better to play chess (my brothers, not me) and to crochet, while gazing at.
I love my room. :)

Ohhh! Before I forget, here's a shout-out to the Virginia Soaps and Scents company, whose home-crafted soap I buy annually in great quantities so as to last all year long. It smells AMAZING, and is gently cleansing. And I've heard it's great for skin issues like acne and eczema! 
 The last great effort once I got home was to ship off a few custom-altered pieces of jewelry, and to put the remaining fresh stock into my stand in the shop on the square, the Rescue Me Marketplace. It looks smashing now! :D

I looooove it. Praying for great sales there this month and all summer.

Honestly, I thought that necklace was surely going to be snapped up by some book-loving homeschooler. I may end up just keeping it myself yet... Let me know if you want to buy it for $23.00 plus shipping. :D

And how fun is this "Chile-Pepper" necklace in bold, zesty shades of cherry, cayenne, olive, lime, and pink? 
I'm gearing up to sell my jewelry online (Don't all faint at once, now) so stay tuned for updates on that and more blog posts throughout this summer!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Sequins & Twinkle-lights | Twenty-Three

I turned 23 last week, on Thursday.

I was expecting to feel old. I mean, fifteen-year-old Julia envisioned that I would be married, with two children, the perfect little house, and driving an aquamarine VW Bug by now.

You know what? I don't feel old. I feel YOUNG, vibrant, colorful, fresh, and blessed-blessed-blessed. (The last one needed repeating for emphasis.)
I'm unmarried, yup, but I have a savior who cherishes and loves me tenderly. I don't have children yet but there are sweet little kids all around me at work and church. I live in a gorgeous log home with two marvelous parents and two handsome brothers who are becoming charming gentlemen before my eyes.

The past month, I've been out and about so much for one reason or another that there hasn't been two days together that I've been at home all day! It's crazy! It's hard work! But it's fun. :D I love 'doing things' and I've certainly done my share lately.



So what did I "do" for my birthday? Ah - well, on the actual day, I enjoyed a delectable dinner with my family of the best. lasagna. ever. And I had my sweet friend Allison M. over and we watched Persuasion and drank chamomile-lavender tea and ate homemade strawberry cheesecake and she created a show-stopping hairstyle for me, which she then replicated two mornings later, when in the evening, we both attended ... an English Country Dance BALL.

Yes. I went to a ball. It was thrilling and lovely and splendid! *happy sigh*

And this... is what I wore...
I really did feel like a princess.

Hugs and love to my wonderful mom who finished my dress just how I wanted it!
 See? There they are. The azaleas, right on time for my birthday. God telling me "Julia, you are precious to me, and don't ever forget that." :D

And just a FEW pictures of the ball - I have way more, and videos besides, but that will have to wait until I can edit them all! :D
Delightful chitchat - this is just in one small spot of the lovely barn.

Twinkle lights and polished floor... (this is only a fraction of all the dancers that were there)



And now... *drumroll please*... 23 things I've learned in 23 years:


1. A smile fixes {nearly} everything.


2. Always check to see if someone left the parking brake on (really, we live on a hill...).


3. Mom and Dad give THE best encouragement and counsel. period. 


4. Strawberry anything, anytime, anywhere, for the win. And Chocolate. Yes.


5. There is always a silver lining. Look for it. (In other words, be grateful. There is always something to be thankful for!) 


6. Do not, under any circumstances, buy a piece of clothing without trying it on first, and hang on to the receipt for at least ten days in case of buyers' remorse. Also - shop thrift stores! One gal's leftovers are another's gold mine. 


7. Drink lots of water, eat lots of fresh fruit and veg, and go on long walks in the sunshine whenever possible.


8. Take zillions of pictures, write in a journal, and make a million memories. The best moments in life deserve to be remembered. 


9. Stay true to your standards, faith, and convictions, you won't regret it. Don't let the world tarnish your shine!


10. Music can turn a dreary job into a dance par-tay.


11.There are a terrible lot of shop assistants with flirtatious manners out there, but do not let it ruffle your feathers. You're holding out for a real gem. (Perhaps Mr. Collins has a cousin.) ;)


12. Brothers make great friends and shed valuable insight on occasion. Also, they are hilarious. Respect and honor them, and never let the sun go down on a disagreement. 


13. Do not be superstitious (see what I did there? #13) or fearful. God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. He's already got your story written out so beautifully, even if you can't imagine what the next plot twist will be.


14. Find your best color (mine is peach!) and wear it whenever possible.


15. Embrace the gifts and talents you have, and work to overcome your weaknesses. There is always room for improvement, but there is only one amazing, unique, and wonderful you. 


16. Always be prepared. Bring a sweater, pack a lunch, wear sunscreen, read up on the subject, practice beforehand, do your research. It pays off big-time. 


17. There are inevitably going to be people who are jealous, bitter, angry, rude, unkind, unfaithful, and annoying. Ignore them, and forgive their foibles. Worrying about what someone else thinks of you is not worth your time.


18. Work HARD. Play HARDER! :D Be amazing and awe-inspiring, if you can. But always be kind, gracious, and humble. You are a mirror that reflects the image of Jesus Christ.


19. Never, never, never give up, keep calm and carry on. :D


20. Do something enjoyable, something you love, something inspiring, something refreshing, every single day. Have fun! But don't forget to take some time to be still, rest, and soak it all in. 


21. Spend as much time as you can with family and friends. They are priceless. So answer their emails, letters, texts and phone calls, and listen when they talk. :)


22. Try not to spend your entire life scrolling through Pinterest. ;) 


23. God will always come through, and he is literally the only thing you'll ever need.


I should totally make that into a tag. :D If anyone wants to write their own list of things they've learned in their own number of years, I'd love to read it. 


Love to all my blog readers!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

"And Oh, You Electrify My Soul..."

WARNING: PRETTY FLOWER PICTURES AHEAD ;)

I've begun to not take blog post titles that seriously. :D They don't have to perfectly describe the post like a newspaper headline! :) (FYI: The title is a line from a Natalie Grant song that I got on iTunes recently. The last half of the line is ... "and you're bringing the dead to life!" Love that victorious note in there!

 So yeah! Look at me, coming through on a promise! I did go out and snap some shots of the beautiful spring blooms... it just happened on an unexpected day off instead of Sunday. It was raining so hard on Monday that they canceled all of the events at the Rock Ranch.

On the one hand, I was a little disappointed that I didn't get to go to work, I love that place, but on the other hand... yay for not having to work with muddy ponies!! :D Feels like I dodged a bullet with that one! ;)

 You know... my post title does go with this post. Looking at these pictures electrifies my soul with some sparks of awe at the grandeur and majesty our Creator displays even in the tiny veins of a dogwood blossom petal. My God, how amazing you are!
 I will admit, there is a hint of a photo filter in these pictures, I about gasped when I clicked the button whilst editing them and saw the result. WOWZA.
 My faithful readers are welcome to pin these to Pinterest, but please don't take them for anything else. (You'll notice I actually watermarked them this time!) :)
Noticed this little fellow and got right in his face for a close-up, marveling at how he matched the flower center exactly!
 I hope my grandma Pat is seeing this blog post - wish I could show her our sweet GA spring season in person, she has always had a great appreciation for flowers!

Oh... and we also have azaleas.

I know!! Aaaagh, I love them so much. I will take more pictures as soon as they hit peak bloom, there are only a few at present.

My faves are these "Peppermint Azaleas". They look as if they have a bright brushstroke on each crisp white petal!

Take care, lovelies! I shall write again soon...