Unplugged Is Difficult—Gardening Is Easy

Hello, Readers! I've been in no WiFi land for a while now.

Darling Husband and I have been at our house in the country more frequently than in town.

We've been up in the air about whether to sell this property, but discovering we no longer have sufficient cell phone service to achieve a Personal Hot Spot made our decision for us.

In my business of writing, I simply cannot be unplugged every day and night. The backlog of email plus being unable to communicate with my writing and reading communities makes my life too difficult.

I use Dropbox for quick access across all my devices for writing, my spreadsheets, my graphics, etc., but I can't get it to load without WiFi or a strong hot spot signal for cellular data.

I have to drive up to the stable on a nearby hill to get 2 bars in order for the hotspot to be "hot" enough to get a good internet connection. Forget streaming anything.

Now that I've updated you, I'll open a couple of files from Dropbox, save them to my local computer, and work on them later.

Gardening in the Country

Yes, we are gardening today—cleaning up the winter kill and weeding the flower beds.

We already have purple Dutch iris, blue agapantha, and three varieties of lantana—orange/yellow Radiation Lantana, pinkyellow Silver Queen, and bright yellow New Gold—popping up.

I want to get those weeds out before they get a foothold.

I'll see if I can post some pictures tomorrow. Here's one of the Dutch iris. Larry's mom gave me a start of those about twenty years ago. I've transplanted them to the yards of every house we've owned and shared them with friends and family. I'm taking some with me when I go home today to plant in my current yard.

I'm sorry I can't send a clump to you. They're resilient, beautiful, and bloom for a 4-6 weeks here. I never have to dig them up in my growing zone, and they spread every year.

I looked on Amazon (they seem to have everything)and found you can order Dutch iris bulbs. I've embedded the link here: order a 10-pack of Dutch Iris Mixed Colors, in case  you'd like to plant some in your yard.

Takeaway Truth

It's beautiful here in the country, and I hope it is where you are too. Have a wonderful day.

Book Spotlight: Vegetable Gardening from the Ground Up by Stephanie Suesan Smith

Please welcome my friend Stephanie Suesan Smith who is a gardener extraordinaire.

Join us as she answers 3 questions about her new book, Vegetable Gardening from the Ground Up. Her new book is available digitally and in paperback.

Stephanie is not only a Ph.D. and a Master Gardener but also a professional copywriter specializing in writing about gardening.

If you check out her Garden Writing Portfolio, she can see some of the hundreds of articles she's written for print and digital publications.

I was thrilled when she published a book about Vegetable Gardening since so many discovered during the first wave of CoVid, the joy and pride of starting a garden.

Find Stephanie Online

Stephanie's Vegetable Blog 

3 Book Spotlight Questions

Q1: What inspired you to write the book?

SSS: I see new gardeners set themselves up for failure because they don’t realize all the things they need to take care of before they plant anything. They become discouraged and decide they can’t grow their own food. With just a little bit of guidance, they can.

Q2. What expertise do you have in this area?

SSS: I have been a Master Gardener since 2001. Master Gardeners are volunteers who work with the horticultural extension agent to teach people the best way to grow vegetables, ornamentals, and anything else they want to grow. 

I have to take continuing education every year to stay up with the current best practices. I have advanced training in growing vegetables and entomology but learned to grow vegetables from my Dad. He let me “help” him plant and harvest when I was young. When I got a little older, he made me help weed and water, too.

Q3: What do you hope readers will get from the book?

SSS: I hope they will be able to grow their own vegetables. Lots of people do not have enough money to eat healthy food. In addition, children are more likely to eat vegetables they help grow. Finally, gardening is good exercise and most people do not get enough of that, either. Everyone, even apartment dwellers, can grow fresh vegetables if they want to. I hope this book teaches them how.

 Vegetable Gardening from the Ground Up is available as a Kindle ebook for $2.99 (It's also a Kindle Unlimited Free Read.) or in paperback for $7.99.

Stephanie has been kind enough to say she'ls happy to answer any gardening questions readers may have. Just leave your question in comments.

Takeaway Truth

I'm a gardener, and I think everyone should experience the joy of gardening. Studies have shown that gardening lowers blood pressure, helps one de-stress, and actually contributes to longevity. All that aside, gardening is pure joy. Get your copy today of Vegetable Gardening from the Ground Up.

Review: The Last Kingdom on Netflix

Warning: Do not start watching The Last Kingdom unless you have hours upon hours to devote to the 5 seasons of this gripping Netflix Original series.

If you remember anything about world history, you might remember England during the reign of King Alfred who was called Alfred the Great after he died.

You may also remember this was a time when Scandinavian invaders collectively known as the Danes during that time raided England every spring—if not sooner.

Seriously, I'm not kidding. You'll end up in a time dilation field with days and evenings passing outside the field while you're stuck binge watching every single episode of the 5 seasons.

Another Warning: Authors—women in particular—if you're looking for a role model for a Viking hero, look no farther than Uhtred perfectly portrayed by Alexander Dreymon.

The movie poster sold on Amazon is shown at left. That's Dreymon as Uhtred. ($24.99 for a 24" x 36" poster and only 20 psoters left, ladies!) 

Genesis of The Last Kingdom

The Last Kingdom, free for Netflix subscribers, or pay per episode with YouTube, Google Play, Apple TV, Vudu, and Amazon Prime, is based on Saxon Tales by Bernard Cornwell, a 13 book series. Rather than give the title of each of the 13 books, I've linked the series of books so you can check each of them out.

FYI, the first season of the series roughly covers the events of the first 2 books in the series: The Last Kingdom and The Pale Horseman.

Each season of this series is action-packed, full of emotion, bloodlust, valor, treachery, sadness, stupidity, back-stabbing, love, honor, loyalty, and—completely exhausting! Uhtred is naive when the series starts, but by the middle of the series, he's learned that the one thing you can depend on is that it's rare to find anyone who honors a pledge.

He's the misunderstood man who's guilty of trusting the wrong men and women and for that he's constantly maligned and targeted as a traitor by those seeking power. But he eventually learns how to turn events to his advantage, how to use words to see that right is done, and accepts that he will not be remembered by name but by the common people as a great warrior. 

Cast of The Last Kingdom

I can't imagine anyone else filling the roles as the actors and actresses named below. For an excellent listing of the cast, visit the Wiki for The Last Kingdom. I'm not going to list them all because there are dozens upon dozens. These are the ones that stick in my mind.

Alexander Dreymon as Uhtred of Bebbanburg
David Dawson as King Alfred 
Tobias Santelmann as Ragnar the Younger
Emily Cox as Brida
Adrian Bower as Leofric
Thomas W. Gabrielsson as Guthrum
Simon Kunz as Odda the Elder 
Harry McEntire as Aethelwold 
Joseph Millson as Aelfric
Ian Hart as Beocca
Eliza Butterworth as Aelswith, Alfred's wife and Queen of Wessex 
Eva Birthistle as Hild, a nun and a warrior, one of Uhtred's most trusted allies
Peri Baumeister as Gisela, Uthred's second wife and sister of Guthred
Thure Lindhardt as Guthred
Mark Rowley as Finan, a fierce Irish warrior sworn to Uhtred
Arnas Fedaravičius as Sihtric, Kjartan's son who becomes one of Uthred's allies 
Jeppe Beck Laursen as Haesten 
Toby Regbo as Aethelred, Lord of the Mercians
Millie Brady as Princess Aethelflaed 
James Northcote as Aldhelm 
Ewan Mitchell as Osferth, Alfred's illegitimate son and one of Uthred's allies 
Simon Stenspil as Dagfinn, a chief of the Danes
Timothy Innes as Edward, King of the Anglo-Saxons 
Thea Sofie Loch Næss as Skade, a Skald and Sorceress 
Ola Rapace as Earl Sigurd "Bloodhair" 
Magnus Bruun as Cnut, a powerful Danish Warlord and cousin of Ragnar
Adrian Schiller as Aethelhelm the Elder, a rich and powerful Ealdorman in Wessex
Amelia Clarkson as Ælflæd, wife of King Edward and Aethelhelm's daughter 

Takeaway Truth

If you loved Game of Thrones, you will absolutely be spellbound by The Last Kingdom, a real-life game of thrones with England of the late 800's CD (or AD if you think along those lines) as the reward of the winner—in effect the battlefield over which all groups fought.

Review: Fisherman's Friends

If you're looking for a feel-good movie, look no further than Fisherman's Friends, now streaming on Amazon Prime, free for subscribers, and Tubi, free with commercials. 

The film is based on a true story about a group of Cornish fishermen from Port Isaac who were signed by Universal Records and achieved a top 10 hit with their debut album of traditional sea shanties.

This 2019 British film was directed by Chris Foggin from a screenplay by Nick Moorcroft, Meg Leonard, and Piers Ashworth.

There's something addictive about the sea shanties. You've all heard "What Will We Do With A Drunken Sailor," and that's just one of many sung by the eight men. 

The film stars Daniel Mays, James Purefoy, David Hayman, Dave Johns, Sam Swainsbury, Tuppence Middleton, Noel Clarke, Christian Brassington, Maggie Steed, and Jade Anouka.

The Story  

Danny lives life in the fast lane as a London music executive. At a weekend party in Cornwall with his pals, he's pranked by his boss and told to sign a group of shanty-singing fishermen.

Danny is out of his element and struggles to gain the respect and enthusiasm of this unlikely boy band, the members of which value friendship and community over fame and fortune. He learns to respect and admire them and works hard to fulfill his promises of an album.

Along the way, he falls in love, analyzes his own life, and changes for a different kind of success.

Takeaway Truth

This is a delightful movie that's fun and has songs you'll be singing and humming for days afterwards.

Vernal Equinox and Ancient Civilizations

Welcome, Spring!

How I've missed your green of new leaves, growing grass, and flowering trees and shrubs.

Vernal Equinox

Many cultures in the  ancient world celebrated the vernal equinox.

People built monuments, like Stonehenge, to observe the rise of the sun on that day.

Indeed, ancient civilizations tracked the path of the sun across the sky from sunrise to sunet as well as monitoring how the length of the day changed. They used the sun and the moon as a clock and a calendar.

One of the most famous spring equinox celebrations was at Chichen Itza in Mexico where the Mayans built a massive pyramid around the year 1000 AD. The sun light shining on it was the signal for the beginning of the seasons.

The Mayans called this day The Return of the Sun Serpent because the sunlight looked like a giant snake slithering down the steps.

Takeaway Truth

Spring is my favorite season of the year. It's a renewed burst of energy that makes anything seem possible. Happy Spring!

Book Spotlight: Katie's Gamble by Kara O'Neal

Good morning!

Grab your cup of coffee, tea, or whatever, and let's chat with Kara O'Neal about her latest book, Katie's Gamble, which is in the SlingWords Book Spotlight today.

Get to Know Kara O'Neal

Award-winning author, Kara O’Neal is a teacher and lives in Texas with her husband and three children.

She writes stories with strong family ties, lots of romance and guaranteed happy endings!

Please visit Kara at her Website.

Subscribe to Kara's free Newsletter and get the latest news about new releases and barggains. Find Kara online at these other websites:

Facebook   *  Twitter   *  Pinterest  *  Goodreads

About Katie's Gamble by Kara O'Neal

Katie McCord bears much weight on her shoulders–single-handedly running her family’s business, McCord’s Confectionery, and caring for her three younger siblings.

Her little shop is in trouble, which forces her to seek help from her brother, Johnny McCord, a notorious gambler living in New Orleans, or lose everything.

Rowdy Denton might be a gambler working for Johnny McCord, but one look at Katie’s sweet innocence tugs at the ache and guilt in his heart.

For his peace of mind, he’s determined to get her out of the opulent hotel and brothel kept by her brother and back to the little town in Texas where she belongs—far away from Rowdy.

When Johnny refuses to sell his share to Katie, he sends Rowdy to her hometown to cause her further trouble. But, instead, Rowdy finds himself working as her hired hand and helping her keep everything together.

Katie knows Rowdy has another purpose for being in Echols. He works for her brother, after all, and is a gambler himself. So, why is he helping her? When she discovers the answer to her question, she races back to New Orleans, prepared to make the biggest gamble of her life.

Behind the Story: Writing Katie's Gamble

Q: What inspired you to write this particular story?

KO: I do this thing where I fall in love with secondary characters. I can’t help it. Once a picture forms in my mind, a story usually follows. And then I just have to write it. Even if the character is a villain.

During MAGGIE’S SONG, I met Rowdy Denton. Gambler. Gunslinger. Collector of debts. And he had no give in him. But somehow I felt that underneath the harshness beat a heart of gold. And I had to find out why. So, I wrote KATIE’S GAMBLE and Rowdy became a hero I will always cherish.

Q: How did you choose the names for your main characters (any particular reason?)

KO: I chose “Katie” for my heroine because her last name was going to be McCord, and I think “Katie McCord” sounds so musical. I chose “Rowdy” because when I first pictured him, I thought, “Well, he looks rowdy.” So, he became “Rowdy Denton.”

Q: If this book were made into a movie, who would star as the heroine and the hero?

KO: This is soooo easy! Jennifer Morrison and Colin O’Donoghue. They are beautiful together!

Takeaway Truth

Great weekend reading is just ahead so grab a copy of Katie's Gamble by Kara O'Neal.

Foolishly Yours Video

I created a video for my latest release, Foolishly Yours, a Kindle Unlimited free read.

Leave a comment and tell me if you think the video is too short, too long, or just the right length.

I'll give away one copy of my new book by random draw.

Just leave a comment with your answer. Drawing open until Sunday, March 20 at midnight.

Click to watch the video — Foolishly Yours.

Takeaway Truth

Sign up for my free newsletter and receive a newsletter twice a month with a free book offer and bargain books. You'll receive a download link for a free ebook romance to thank you for subscribing. Your email address which will never be shared.

Review: Nobody Starring Bob Odenkirk

This movie is for all the Walter Mittys of the world. 

Hmm. That may be a dated reference. If you don't know who Walter Mitty is, he was the main character in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, a short story by James Thurber, published in 1939 in The New Yorker.

The story is the most famous of Thurber's work and gave rise to a man being labeled a Walter Mitty. You may have seen the movie of the same name that was released in 2013 and starred Ben Stiller as Mitty.

In the story (and the movie) Mitty is a meek, mild-mannered man whose days are monotonous and boring. He escapes his mundane existence with exciting daydreams in which he's a brave, stalwart hero, facing danger and winning.

Where to Find Nobody

You can watch Nobody on HBO Max if you're a subscriber. If not, it's available on a few other streaming services, but I don't know if it's free there. You can rent or buy from Amazon too.

Blurbing the Movie

Hutch Mansell is a nobody and isn't respected by his co-workers or his children. When he fails to defend himself or his family when thieves break into his suburban home, he reaches the boiling point. He's had all he can take of being a nobody and goes out looking for trouble.

Boy! Does he find it. More than that. He IS trouble to the punks he comes across. Trouble in the form of his long-simmering rage, brutal fights, gunshots, and burning rubber on a stolen car.

Along the way, he crosses the wrong people and his wife and kids are endangered. Can he save them and live a life where he will never be anyone's doormat again? Absolutely because Hutch has a secret that you'll delight in discovering.

Nobody is a 2021 American film released by Universal Pictures in 2021. This action thriller was directed by Ilya Naishuller and written by Derek Kolstad. David Leitch and Bob Odenkirk are among the film's producers.

Odenkirk also stars as Hutch and Connie Nielsen, as his wife. Christopher Lloyd is fabulous as his father who shows that the acorn doesn't fall far from the oak tree.

This movie was a total surprise to us. Odenkirk—you may know him from Better Call Saul—is completely believable, and Christopher Lloyd is a hoot. The plot surprises are just what the viewer kind of suspects and is rewarded by.

If you don't like violence, pass this one by or close your eyes during certain scenes. Truthfully, the movie is an unexpected delight. Solid writing with no "stupid" scenes. What I mean by that is one of our pet peeves about movies and TV shows. That's when a character suddenly acts contrary to the characterization previously established. Great acting, likable good guys, and evil bad guys. Two thumbs up.

Takeaway Truth

We'll probably watch it again in a few months if it's still available on HBO Max. It's that good.

Writing Rules to Embrace

Do writers really need rules?

Sometimes, we do. It keeps us focused.

If you're a writer or want to be a writer, try these on for size.

(1) You must write—not just talk about it, not just think about it, not just dream about it.

(2) You must write consistently—not just when The Muse inspires you, not when your house is clean, not when everything in Life is perfect because it will never be the perfect time to write.

(3) You must strive to improve—practice indeed makes perfect, or at least better.

(4) You must put your work out in the marketplace—nothing ventured, nothing gained.

(5) You must persist when rejected—because you will be rejected. Everyone is rejected at some point by either agents, editors, or readers.

(6) You must believe in yourself even when no one else does—especially when no one else does.

(7) You must remember why you began writing in the first place—because you love putting words together.

(8) You must accept that luck is a part of this business and that you may never get that lucky break—but you can succeed anyway.

(9) You must remember why you write—not for money or fame but because you love putting words together to tell stories.

Takeaway Truth

Writing is what you do and characterizes who you are. Writing in and of itself is the reward. Write hard. Live free.

Laughter Chases the Chill Away

If you've been stuck at home when the snow bomb hits, you are probably sick of cold weather. I do hope everyone has power and heat while stuck indoors.

This post is to give you a little chuckle to brighten your Sunday the way the funny paper once brightened my day when I was a child.

My friend Frank sent me these funnies.

1. You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.

2. We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public. Or not.

3. Dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish.

4. You're never too old to learn something stupid. Or to do something stupid.

5. I didn't say it was your fault; I said I was blaming you.

6. There's a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can't get away.

7. A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk, I have a work station.

8. Learn to take life with a grain of salt—and a slice of lime and a shot of tequila.

9. Behind every successful man is a woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.

Takeaway Truth

Stay calm. Spring is sure to come sooner or later.

New Release: Shamrocks are a Girl's Best Friend by Lucinda Race

My friend Lucinda Race has a new romance, Shamrocks are a Girl's Best Friend.

This book is extra special because it's her first for the Last Chance Beach Romance series.

Getting to Know Lucinda

Award winning author Lucinda Race writes about family, love and happily ever afters.

She is a lifelong fan of romantic fiction. As a young girl, she spent hours reading romance novels and getting lost in the hope they represent. While her friends dreamed of becoming doctors and engineers, her dreams were to become a writer—a romance novelist.

As life twisted and turned, she found herself writing nonfiction but longed to turn to her true passion. After developing the storyline for The Loudon Series, it was time to start living her dream. Her fingers practically fly over computer keys as she weaves stories about strong women and the men who love them.

Find Lucinda Online





Sign up for Lucinda's Free NLhttps://www.lucindarace.com/newsletter

About Shamrocks are a Girl's Best Friend by Lucinda Race

Battered, broken and looking for solitude smoke jumper Tric heads to Last Chance Beach and without warning walks into Kelly's cottage. She knows from experience this is the best place for him to recover and she'll share her safe haven with him. Will a bit of Irish luck and a matchmaking uncle give them a chance to find love?

Tric Ryan has spent the majority of his adult life jumping out of airplanes and into infernos. That is until a fateful jump nearly ends his career as a smoke jumper. 

Badly in need of a change, he drives to Last Chance Beach to recover. A short respite at Shamrock Cottage promises him the solitude he needs to recoup, or to figure out how he’ll face a future without the dangerous job he loves.

Kelly O’Malley moved to Last Chance Beach after a broken heart. She’s living in her uncle’s rental, Shamrock Cottage, after a fire destroys her home. Brandishing a skillet she’s ready to defend her safe haven from the battered and bruised man in her living room.

A quick call to her uncle confirms the mix-up, and that he’s accidentally rented the cottage to both Tric and her for an open-ended stay. When they both agree they can share the spacious vacation home, sparks are sure to fly.

Kelly helps Tric recover with easy walks on the beach and friendship. Will the magic of Last Chance Beach, with a dash of luck from the Irish, heal the heartaches Kelly and Tric carry and help them find the love and a future they both deserve? After all Shamrocks are a girl’s best friend.

Takeaway Truth

If you're looking for a wonderful romance to read this weekend, look no further. Shamrocks Are a Girl's Best Friend by Lucinda Race will delight you. Return to Last Chance Beach today!

Book Spotlight: Death in the Perfect House by Caroline Clemmons

I'm happy to shine a spotlight on a long-time friend, Caroline Clemmons, and her new book Death in the Perfect House.

Get Acquainted with Caroline Clemmons

You may already know her as a bestelling author of western romance. 

Well, I have some exciting news for you. Caroline is branching out into mystery with a lighthearted humorous cozy with no graphic sex and violence.

Subscribe to Caroline's FREE Newsletter to learn when new books become available and to take advantage of the bargains she offers.

You can visit Caroline online at these websites:

(1) What inspired you to write this particular story?

CC: Sometimes characters and/or situations pop into my head and won’t rest until I write their story. That may sound crazy to people who aren’t writers. 

Personally, I find it inspiring when a scene for a book pops into my head like a scene from a movie. The scene doesn’t end up as the first scene in the book, but it contains the main characters.

The two types of books I read most often are romance and mystery. DEATH IN THE PERFECT HOUSE is a cozy mystery with romance.

(2) How did you choose the names for your main characters (any particular reason?)

CC: I like unusual names, and thought Zoe was rare. Since I started the book, I’ve come across the name several times. Even my daughter’s dog came from the pound named Zoe. I like the name, though, and my protagonist kept Zoe. Her last name, Wilder, conveys her quirky nature.

As for the other characters, I try to vary the ethnicity and first letter of the name. I often use Biblical names for the male main character, which is how I chose Caleb. He’s tall like many Scots, so I chose a Scottish name, McBride.

(3) If this book were made into a movie, who would star as the heroine and the hero?

CC: That’s a hard question because they only exist in my head. Plus, there are so many young actors and actresses that I can’t even name them all. I suppose Emma Stone would make a good Zoe Wilder. Perhaps Chris Pine could be Caleb McBride. For me, seeing this book as a movie would be fabulous!

Takeaway Truth

Ah, the weekend approaches. Why not grab this whimsical cozy mystery, Death in the Perfect House? It's a Kindle Unlimited Free Read for subscribers, or $3.99 to purchase.

My Oatmeal Story for Cereal Day

Today is a celebration of cereals which is the most frequently consumed breakfast in the U.S.A.

Worst Breakfast and Best Breakfast Ever

When I was a little girl, my family went to visit one of my uncles. For breakfast the next morning, my Aunt cooked oatmeal. When our mom fixed oatmeal, she always added raisins, brown sugar, and milk. 

Aunt "Name Withheld" made a big pot of oatmeal. She set a bowl in front of each kid and served a giant spoonful of this gray gelationous goop into each bowl. No milk. No sugar. No fruit.

I looked at it, looked at my brothers who were staring at it, looked at my cousins who were frowning but slowly eating it, and I asked, "Do you have any milk or sugar?"

My mother marched me away from the breakfast table and gave me a lecture about never asking for something that wasn't placed on the table. Furthermore, I was to go eat the gray goop, thank my aunt for making it, and tell her it was good.

I did as instructed. 

I never ate oatmeal again until I was an adult. 

That's when I discovered if you added fruit, nuts, and milk to the gray goop, it transformed it into a delicious breakfast.

Ready to Eat Cereal Vs. Cooked Cereal

Most people think of cereal as an "open the box, pour in the bowl" meal, but cereals like oatmeal are cooked. 

Cooked organic cereals are better for you nutritionally than the dried cereal most often chosen. Lack of time and convenience are often cited as the reason not to cook oatmeal.

In truth, it takes only 5 minutes to cook oatmeal. When topped with chopped apple, pecans, raisins, and a tiny dab of butter and a little milk, it's a breakfast that's delicious and will hold you until lunch.

Oatmeal was once a staple breakfast food. Try it in its original form, not the instant flavored kind, but real oats.

It's good for your body. I order Quaker Organic Oats from Amazon. They're non-GMO in case that's important to you.

Takeaway Truth

 Add whatever you fancy—fruit, nuts, a milk choice, and butter if it's not contraindicated. Bet you find it's a delicious breakfast in a bowl.

Review: The Duff

If you're looking for a lighthearted, feel good movie, check out The Duff on Netflix. You can also stream it on Amazon or buy in a variety of formats.

Yes, it's a teen comedy, but don't let that dissaude you. It's entertaining and humorous due to a good cast that makes the most of the tried and true "mean girl" / ugly duckling transformation story.

Directed by Ari Sandel and with the screen play written by Josh A. Cagan from the novel by Kody Keplinger, the movie was released in 2015.

The Cast

Mae Whitman has the title role of Bianca Piper aka The Duff with Robbie Amell as her neighbor and mentor to hotness, Wesley RushBella Thorne is the mean girl Madison Morgan, and Bianca Santos is one of The Duff's hot best friends Casey. The other hot best friend is Skyler Samuels as Jess.

The cast is rounded up with Romany Malco as Principal BuchananNick Eversman as Bianca's crush, TobyKen Jeong as the school's newsletter editor/teacher, Mr. Arthur; and Allison Janney as Bianca's motivational-spouting, self-help guru Mom.

The Plot

A high school senior instigates a social pecking order revolution after finding out that she has been labeled the DUFF—Designated Ugly Fat Friend—by the prettier, popular hot girls in the school.

Like I said, a story told many times, but this one is good for a pleasant afternoon's entertainment. The rating is PG-13 for the usual elements that Hollywood wants the world to think is typical, average teen behavior.

Takeaway Truth

If you need something lightweight that will make you smile and maybe forget Russia for a few minutes, try this.

Recipe Share: Louisiana Red Beans and Rice

Good morning! I grew up in South Louisiana where Red Beans and Rice was served nearly every week.

In fact, rice and sugar cane werre the area's main agricultural products so rice was served at nearly every dinner.

My mother cooked rice and beans of some variety, rice and blackeye peas, rice and gravy if meat or chicken was on the menu, and even tomato gravy and rice—what we would call a vegetarian dish.

In case you're wondering why beans and rice are usually server together, it's because together they make a complete protein. That's why so many people are now buying both in bulk because they fear an upcoming food shortage due to so many factors in the world today.

In the event there was ever any leftover rice, then delicious, buttery rice pudding made with cinnamon, raisins, butter, and an egg for binding was baked in the oven. The aroma was mouthwatering as was the dessert itself.

Prep Today for Sunday Dinner

About Red Beans

Whenever you cook dried beans or peas, you must soak them overnight. First, wash your beans, picking out any bad ones. For red beans, you can buy them at any price point.

I usually buy Camellia Brand Dried Red Beans at my local store. They're a product from New Orleans and cost more than generic, but I find there aren't any "rejects" in the bag.

I've included a link to where you can buy them on Amazon if you want to try them.

About the Pork Ingredient

The recipe calls for a ham ingredient. The preferred ingredient is something many of you may not have purchased before, and that is ham hocks. My mom used a ham hock or pickled pork for seasoning when she cooked dried beans. I haven't seen pickled pork in years so I assume it is no longer sold.

Ham hocks are the shank end of a hog's leg. In my mom's day, those were often given away or sold for a quarter. I bought a package for New Year's blackeye peas and was shocked to see they were $1.95 a pound.

The ham hocks Mom always bought were smoked so that smoky pork flavor infused the beans and made them extra delicious.

If you can't find ham hocks, you can use a ham bone from a smoked ham, but not if you used a sweet glaze when you baked the ham. 

Alternative pork products include the fat trimmed from a baked ham, but not if the ham was baked with a sweet glaze.

Along with the ham ingredient, which is for seasoning, you'll be adding chunks of smoked sausage near the end of cooking.

About the Rice for Serving With Beans

I grew up eating white rice, grown locally. As an adult, I switched to whole grain rice, what some call brown rice. Several years ago, I started buying basmati or jasmine rice. (Yes, I still cook a lot of rice.)

I usually buy Royal Brown Basmati Rice which you can find at Amazon or perhaps in your local store. 

You can use any rice you like, but you need to cook it about a half hour before you plan to serve your red beans and rice.

Now, let's get to the recipe.

Louisiana Red Beans and Rice


1 pound dry red beans, soaked overnight

1 large onion chopped

1 ham hock or other port product

Rotel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chiles, original or mild

6 cups of water

Salt to taste (about 1 tablespoon of regular table salt, i.e., Morton Salt, or about 2 tablespoons of coarse salt per pound—better to use a little less and adjust to taste when finished cooking)

1/2 to 1 tablespoon chili powder (use more or less according to your taste)

1-2 cloves of garlic finely minced or pressed, or 1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 1/2 pounds smoked pork sausage


1. You may use a slow cooker, Instant Pot, or large Dutch oven on the stove. Your choice, but I'll be giving directions for using a slow cooker.

2. Soak beans overnight. The next morning, drain and rinse the beans and place in the slow cooker.

3. Add water, salt, chile, onion, garlic, and ham hock.

4. Set on slow to cook for 10 to 12 hours or overnight.

5. When the beans are about 4 hours away from being done, it's time to saute the smoked sausage. Cut into 1 inch chunks and saute to remove some of the grease. Drain the sausage and add to the slow cooker along with the can of Rotel. Cook another 4 hours.

6. Cook your rice when you're about 30 minutes to an hour away from serving the beans.

7. When beans are done, taste to adjust the salt. serve over the rice.

8. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Takeaway Truth

It takes much less time to put this together to cook than it took for me to write this. Whenever I cook my mother's red beans and rice, it always takes me back to my childhood.

Reminder Note: Amazon Links in my post, if clicked, may earn me a tiny commission. 

Conspircuous Consumption Quotes

Some people spend as if they're made out of money.

In culling my home library, I came across several books about wretched excess.

I thought I'd share some of the words famous people have said about how they spend their money.

Prolific romance author Barbara Cartland said, "The post is hopeless, and I have given up sending things bypost. I now have things delivered in my Rolls."

"If women didn’t exist, all the money in the world would have no meaning." —Aristotle Onassis

"I tend to buy cars for the fun of it. I drive them around for three weeks and then I get bored, dump them in the garage and let the batteries go completely flat." —Eddie Murphy

Elizabeth Taylor once said, "I have a lust for diamonds, almost like a disease." 

"My instincts stink...Hollydwood, the marriages, the divorces, a limo and a yacht. I actually had a yacht, and on the first trip we were 13 feet out and my father brother started vomiting." —Sylvester Stallone

Takeaway Truth

The wisest words I read were by motivational speaker Zig Ziglar" "Money isn’t the most important thing in life, but it’s reasonably close to oxygen on the 'gotta have it'  scale."

Book Spotlight: Ben, The Dawsons of Montana, by Jan Scarbrough

Welcome to SlingWords Thursday Book Spotlight!

It's been a while since I've done book spotlights, and I've been anxious to bring this popular feature back.

This week my guest is Jan Scarbrough who writes the modern western romance along with contemporary romance. If you haven't read Jan before, this is a great time to start.

Jan publishes a free Newsletter for readers with bargains you'll want to grab.

Click to sign up for Jan's Newsletter.

More About Jan Scarbrough

Jan writes heartwarming contemporary stories about home and family, single moms and children, and if the plot allows, about another passion—horses. Living in the horse country of Kentucky makes it easy for Jan to add small town Southern charm to her books and the excitement of a Bluegrass horse race or a competitive horse show.

She is the author of 2 popular Bluegrass romance series, the Ghost Mountain Ranch series, a contemporary western series with a good blend of mystery and happily-ever-after romance, and the Dawsons of Montana, a 4-book contemporary western series.

Visit Jan Online

About Ben, The Dawsons of Montana

Ben Dawson is a loner with a chip on his shoulder as big as the blue Montana skies he rides under every day. His widowed father’s marriage had been too quick, his stepbrother is a pain, and his stepmother turned his mother’s family ranch into a dude ranch.

Ben has only returned to Six Buckles Guest Ranch to keep a promise to his late father, to watch over the ranch and his stepmother. He’s not there to get involved in a relationship, especially with a girl he knew back in high school.

Leigh Weston just wants to do her job as an event planner at Six Buckles and stay far away from entanglements. No good has ever come from them. Her father cheated on her mother, just like her ex-husband cheated on her. 

Her reunion with Ben leads to more than she expected, but she’s not ready to risk her heart. She exacts a promise from him that their relationship will be strictly hands-off. But when she needs a fake date to an event, Ben looks like the perfect choice. He understands the boundaries she’s set, right?

But even fake dates can ignite real romances. Are some promises worth breaking if it leads to a second chance at love?

The Story Behind Ben

1. What inspired you to write this particular story?

JS: When I wrote BRODY, the first book in the Dawsons of Montana series, I tortured the poor guy in the first scene. It’s not fun to return home to find your girlfriend in the arms of another man!

I also introduced a stepbrother, Ben. Early on, Brody reflects on his childhood nemesis.

Sounded like Bennet Dawson. Jim’s firstborn had always been a workaholic. They’d never gotten along. Ben saw Brody as an interloper, and in a way he and his mother were. The ranch land had belonged to Jim’s first wife, Bonnie Bennett Dawson. It was by rights Ben’s land. The dude ranch part was just an afterthought, and Liz’s idea to boot, making it a bigger sin in Ben’s eyes.

Other books followed in the Dawsons of Montana series, but Brody and Ben never resolved their conflict. Last year, I figured it was about time to find out if Brody and Ben could settle their differences. Oh, and I had to give Ben a happily-ever-after ending too!

2. How did you choose the names for your main characters (any particular reason?)

JS: No particular reason!

Takeaway Truth

If you're looking for some weekend reading, pick up a copy of Ben, Dawsons of Montana, by Jan Scarbrough, which is a Kindle Unlimited free read or buy for $2.99.

Writing What The Eye Sees

Every few years I re-read A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman.

This book is simply a beautiful read with its rich descriptive prose as it explores the sensory sensations we experience. I think it helps writers create better descriptions, and it may help readers appreciate the descriptions in a book.

Authors need to describe something so that readers can clearly picture whatever is placed in a scene from the weather, the setting, people, or things. If it's seen by the characters, it must be described so that the reader can see it too.

Description should paint a picture. It's not a gray winter sky—it's a sky the color of two-day old dirty snow. It's not yellow—it's canary or maybe it's chartreuse.

This book will help you with writing descriptions and give you a lovely mix of philosophy and physiology.

Writing and Vision

Many who know me know that I have vision problems. It's been an ongoing issue for a few years now. It's a concern because the sensory experience of vision is an intrinsic part of the human experience for us who have been blessed with the gift of sight. I say blessed because one does not know how precious it is until the threat of losing it hangs over one's head like an axe that might fall at any moment.

Facts About Eyes and Vision

(1) Our sense of sight is responsible for 90-95% of all of our sensory perception. 

(2) Human eyes can perceive more than a million simultaneous visual impressions.

(3) Human eyes can discriminate among nearly 8 million gradations of color.

(4) Human eyes are so sensitive that on a clear night when there is no moon, a person sitting on a sensitive peak can see a match struck 50 miles away.

(5) Human eyes take about an hour to completely adapt to seeing in the dark.

(6) When you see something pleasing, your pupil can dilate as much as 45%.

(7) Blue eyes are most sensitive to light with dark brown the least sensitive.

Takeaway Truth

 Paint with ordinary words like red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple and you end up with a rather plain picture. Instead, try painting with bold words like tomato, vermillion, pumpkin, terra cotta, chartreuse, olive, cerulean, azure, and orchid.

22 Ways to Feel Good in 2022

22 Ways to Feel Good in 2022

Try these simple steps. They cost no money, but pay big results in health and happiness.

1. Tonight when you go to bed, say: "Good things are coming my way."

2. Have a  Dream. People often stop dreaming about a bigger and better life because they've been disappointed with what has happened in life. Stop living with past disappointments. Each day is a new chance to make a dream come true so find your dream. 

3. When you wake up in the morning, look in the bathroom mirror and say, "Good things are coming my way."

4. About that Dream. Making a dream come true takes mental, emotional, and physical work. Write your dream on paper. Articulate it—speak it aloud. Envision it—use your imagination to create a technicolor mental movie of what making your dream come true feels like. Take actual steps, no matter how small, each day to make your  dream come true.

5. Spend at least 20 minutes outdoors with the sunshine on your arms and legs. That activates Vitamin D in your body which will have amazing health results. That's not my opinion, that's scientific fact based on research.

6. Read a book each week. Reading expands your horizons, improves your vocabulary, improves your blood pressure, relieves stress, and opens your imagination. 

If you think you don't like to read, ask yourself what kind of movies and TV shows you like. Then find a book that has the same premise, theme, content, or action. You'll discover the joy of reading.

7. Develop work discipline in connection with your job and with the Dream you want to achieve. Work discipline is the ability to focus on a project and work consistently until the project is finished. Virtually anything, including dreams, can only be achieved with work discipline.

8. Beware of telling friends and family that you don't have time to play with them, dine with them, or do whatever they ask. Too many people fall into the trap of saying, "I don't have time." Sometimes, you simply have to make time. Life is swift and fleeting. Not taking time to show love eventually leaves you with a pile of regrets.  

9. Develop professionalism in your career. If you say you'll do something, always follow through. Don't make empty promises.

10. If you're miserable in your job, look for another one while you're still employed. Yes, life is too short to be miserable every work day. Times are tough right now so maybe hanging onto your job is of utmost importance. If that's the case, then be a stellar employee, smile, be friendly, and help your co-workers.

11. Always be part of the solution, not part of the problem. That philosophy will make you a success in life.

12. Adopt an optimistic attitude. If you're mired in pessimism, that will take work so fake it until you make it. 

13. At least once a week, walk outside at night and look up at the star-studded sky. If you live in a city with "light pollution," take a drive into the country. The night sky is soothing, beautiful, and calming.

14. Once a day, write on a piece of paper, "Good things are coming my way."

15. Clean up your environment. Research—scientific and centuries of Feng Shui, the art/science of positive energy—shows that clutter and disorganized workspaces and homes make people feel tired and overwhelmed. How do your home and office make you feel?

16. Celebrate your victories. Always celebrate your "wins" no matter how small. Don't wait for the big scores to pop the bubbly. They don't come along too often. Celebrating the small victories helps you mark progress and keeps you from burning out.

17. Give people benefit of the doubt online. I've seen so many people get upset because of an email or text they received. I've looked at it, and just see the words. The recipient looks at it and filters it through his/her attitudes, opinions about the person who sent it, past experiences, etc. and comes up thinking the email/text was an insult, the sender was a bitch, and other less flattering comments. Remember, it's impossible to send emotions through digital communications. Cut them a break.

18. Write a letter to someone you love every week. I have bundles of letters written from family members from my childhood on. I can look at a love poem my grandmother wrote to my grandfather. Can you do that 20 years from now if the text is on a cell phone or an email? We started writing letters to those we love because letters can be forever and something precious to the recipient.

19. Smile at a co-worker or neighbor who looks dejected. A simple smile sometimes can brighten a day.

20. Put music on when you're cleaning house and sing. Out loud. You might start something new that will make your family get involved.

21. If you have kids, do them a huge favor and lock them out of the internet at night. Collect all the cell phones and put them away. No WiFi. No cell phone. 

Much research has been done on the effects of constantly being plugged in. The conclusions are frightening with rising statistics about bullying, lack of focus, doing poorly in school, deterioration of self-esteem, and even suicide. 

In case you don't follow the research, most of the geniuses who created all of this marvelous technology don't allow their children unlimited use of cell phones, video games, etc. They were smart enough to make it possible but also smart enough now to limit their own children's exposure to it.

22. Manage your time effectively. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. Have you noticed that some people seem to get far more done than you? They've learned to manage their time effectively. For a week, log what you do every 24 hour period. 

Analzye the time you spent and see how many minutes were wasted. By wasted, I mean time spent that you didn't really get any kind of reward for.

An example might be time spent flipping channels with the remote, searching for something to entertain you. Most of the time, little entertainment results.

Could you have been doing something with a bigger payback for the time you spent doing that?

Takeaway Truth

Good things are coming for me and you in 2022!