De-stressing the next 61 days

Halloween is two days away. That can only mean Thanksgiving and Christmas are on the horizon.

Whatever calm and order in our world will soon disappear into preparations and participation for holiday festivities.

All those preparations are taxing. The family gatherings are too often trying. The constant busyness is tiring. Our to-do lists overflow and our schedules leave little room for relaxation.

Don’t get me wrong. The holidays are my favorite time of year.

At the same time I dread them because these sixty-one days been Halloween and New Year’s Day can be so overwhelming.

Problem is, I can’t stay ahead, and become stressed. I don’t think I’m alone. Most of us experience STRESS during the holidays and need to think of ways to De-STRESS.

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You’ll find lots of ideas on these sites:

~Woman’s Day offers 12 Ways to De-stress Amidst Holiday Madness

~Huffington Post suggests What Are You Doing for You This Holiday Season? 

~Focus on the Family recommends De-stressing Christmas

~ Shape.com proposes 3 Easy Ways to De-Stress Over the Holidays 

Chicken Wrangler Sara and I came up with our own idea to de-stress our hectic days during the holidays and restore our calm for the next 61 days.

We’re starting a new blog category called Sunday Sampler. Sounds like we’re adding, but we’re not. Instead of posting three times a week, we’ll be taking turns posting once a week.

We’ll let you know how our plan works.

Ghosts, Goblins, and Halloween Decorating

Decorating for Halloween has become as popular as Christmas decorating.

Connie'sGhosts greet us on early morning walks through our neighbor.

Jack-o-lanterns light our way in the late afternoon.

BeckerWhere we used to live we saw witches crashed into trees and giant spiders in spidery webs crawling in yards. There were spook houses and ghost tours, which could be truly frightening for younger children…and some adults (this one included).witch

 

 

In the 1900s, Halloween wasn’t so much about scary, scary things like zombies and gruesome headless monsters, tombstones and skeletons.

Back then, crepe paper pumpkins, plastic candy containers, painted tin noisemakers, and paper lanterns were the items of choice. Not many of these items are around today because people used them and then threw them away.

Last week, I dug out my vintage decorations. A few things from my childhood Halloween days that weren’t thrown out.

My halloween

Does anyone recognize the gauze mask or the paper-mache jack-o-lantern?

The black cats are old bulletin board posters like those that I remember from grade school. The pumpkins are constructed from honeycomb tissue.

To see other vintage Halloween collectibles, check out Kovels’ Pinterest page here.

Wonder what might be a future collectible? Kovels suggests these:

  1. Special holiday bottles and cans like Crush soda’s new Halloween flavors, Gruesome Grape, Spooky Strawberry, and Orange Ogre. Look for other limited edition plastic bottles with scary faces.
  2. Plastic candy containers either reproductions of 1950s and ’60s figures and jack-o-lanterns or contemporary plastic decorations with good design.
  3. Zombies and vampires. Look for plastic, rubber, or resin decorations like the zombie-hand candleholder.
  4. Jewelry. Charm bracelets with pumpkins, bats, and black cats; jointed skeleton earrings decorated with rhinestones and spider rings.
  5. Motion, or voice, activated figures that light up or emit scary sounds and music. Look for pumpkin men, witches, vampires, black cats, body parts like crawly hands.
  6. Paper or plastic masks, costumes, treat bags, and dolls.

Stores are packed with spooky décor options. Soon you’ll find Halloween items at reduced prices.

There are some good buys to had and, if you don’t throw the items away, you might have some vintage collectibles like mine in twenty-five years.

Take Your Chicken to Work Day – Miller Farm Friday

A blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

Mrs. Tucker, the teacher who owns Artimus the Goose of Michaelmas fame, has instituted Fabulous, Fun Fridays in her 3rd and 4th grade science class.

I learned this when she appeared with a lizard in a cage one Friday. She explained that the lizard was a North Carolina Anole and the kids were going to observe it during Fabulous Fun Friday and then they would release it.

Well, my chickens were not going to be upstaged by a silly lizard.

I asked if I could bring a chicken on the following Friday. Mrs. Tucker, the teacher, was thrilled.

That is how last Friday became Take Your Chicken to Work Day. I tried to convince Beekeeper Brian to take a chicken to work, but he wasn’t sure they would handle the hour-long commute very well.

I thought long and hard about who to bring and decided Samson was the best choice. He is a rooster, but still he fit in the same category as the chickens. I told him all week that he was in for an adventure on Friday.  I’m not sure he quite understood.

When it was time for his appearance, I put him in a dog kennel (without a dog in it) and drove him to the school. He was very quiet.

Samson 1The students were told to remain calm and still – very hard instructions for 3rd and 4th graders.  However, they did a fantastic job as I held Samson and talked about his rose comb and the feathers on his feet. They were fascinated.

Then Mrs. Tucker told them if they were really still, I would put him on the table and let him walk around. They were perfectly still and Samson stood on the table.

He wasn’t really sure about walking around.  I imagine the table felt different than the ground in the chicken yard.Samson 2

I’m not sure who was more curious, Samson or the students. Samson 3

Each student then had the opportunity to hold Samson. Mrs. Tucker explained that chickens poop whenever they need to so Samson would sit on a towel just in case.  Samson patiently allowed all 10 students to hold him.  As soon as I returned him to the kennel, he pooped.

He wins the Best Behaved Rooster Award for sure.  No way a lizard could compete with that.

SUPPORTING YOUR FAVORITE AUTHORS

Today’s book market is flooded. Don’t believe me check out the statistics…

According to Worldometers, so far this year 1,975,193 new book titles have been published.

In 2012, there were 3,500 books published each day in the US.

Btw, neither of these statistical sources include the number of eBooks published daily. Some sources estimate indie/self-publishing adds another 3,000 books per day.

That’s a lot of books. An author can get lost in such a vast sea no matter how much marketing they do. So what can be done to help your favorite author?

Buy their books.

Read their books.

Tell your friends about their books.

But most important, especially for Amazon books…

leave a review

Other ways to help an Amazon author:

  1. Add their book to your Amazon wish list, even if you already purchased it.
  2. Like other people’s reviews. You’ll see the question – Was this review helpful to you? – at the bottom of each Amazon review. Click yes or no.
  3. Like their author’s page.

Amazon uses algorithms, which I do not understand. I don’t think anyone does.

It doesn’t matter. The fact remains that every review and like on the author’s page raises an author’s rank on the Amazon charts.

Rank increases the book’s visibility among the vast number of books out there. Visibility can lead to sales.

None of my suggestions take much time to do, so please support your favorite authors.

And, just in case you want to help raise my rankings, you’ll find my Amazon author page here.

Who writes better – men or women?

It’s an interesting question.

Female writers of the past have used male or ambiguous pennames to disguise their gender. Women like Mary Ann Evans, who used the pen name George Elliot and the Brontë Sisters, who wrote as Acton, Currer and Ellis Bell.

These days, women choose gender-neutral pen names in the hopes of increasing book sales and gaining book reviews. Consider these two NYT best sellers:

~ Joanne “Jo” Rowling chose to use J.K. Rowling for her Harry Potter series and wrote The Cuckoo’s Calling as Robert Galbraith.

~Nora Roberts, the remarkably prolific author who writes in two genres, selected the gender-neutral pen name J.D. Robb for her mystery novels.

Should women writers bother with pen names? Not according to a recent poll done by Grammarly.

As the infographic below shows 59% of the 3,000 respondents believe women are superior writers.

The poll questions centered on perceived differences in writing technique and quality based on gender. Answers indicate readers believe:

  1. Male authors “get to the point,” whereas female writers were more likely to focus on “character development.”
  2. women write about people as opposed to things
  3. women use long, wordy sentences while men write short, concise sentences

Check out the full infographic below:

MenvsWomen_Writers_infographic

I agree with Grammarly’s poll results. Probably because I’m a female author who writes character-driven love stories.

What about you? Do you believe women are better writers than men?

Too Many Chickens Underfoot – Miller Farm Friday

By Guest Blogger Chicken Wrangler Sara

The chickens that hatched at the end of July are doing fantastic.

chickens in transitIn fact, we have sold seven of them including Leo, the late bloomer. They were not too excited about the move, but I trust they have made the adjustment nicely.

Even with seven less chickens, it is still crowded in the coop.They seem to multiply at feeding time.

Rachel switched the birds to fermented feed this summer. Basically you mix chicken feed and water and let it sit until it smells like vinegar.  I suppose it functions like yogurt with good bacteria to help the digestive system of the chickens.  Anyway, the birds love it, and we have had no illness since switching.

The only issue is that I must put out fresh food every morning.

Sometimes I think the chickens run around the coop burning calories all night because they seem to be starving in the mornings. I put one scoop in a feed bowl and carry a scoop to put into a second bowl.

One morning a little chick jumped right up onto the scoop before I could put it in the bowl.

They have learned to associate my presence with being fed. It is kind of like my children. Even now when they come home from college, they are eager to know what I am fixing for them to eat.  The chickens unlike my children run up to me and get right under my feet.chicken feet

I find myself doing a new kind of “chicken dance” to avoid falling down. I imagine it like an elegant tango but it is more like a rodeo clown.

So far, I have managed to remain upright as I feed the chickens. Another accomplishment to put on my resume.

PINK – One Word Wednesday

October is pink month. You see pink everywhere.

The designation of October as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) began in 1985 as a partnership between the American Cancer Society and the pharmaceutical division of Imperial Chemical Industries, maker of several anti-breast cancer drugs.

Pink_ribbon_svgThe pink ribbon has been the international symbol of breast cancer awareness since 1992.

Due in large part to NBCAM and the pink ribbon campaign, two things have happened in recent years:

~a gradual reduction in female breast cancer among women aged 50 and older has been recorded.

~a decline in death rates from breast cancer

Still there are myths about breast cancer that persist. Below are seven such myths and facts to debunk those myths

  1. MYTH: Finding a lump in your breast = breast cancer.

FACT: Only a small percentage of breast lumps turn out to be cancer.

  1. MYTH: Men cannot get breast cancer.

FACT: Each year approximately 2,190 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 410 will die.

  1. MYTH: A mammogram can cause breast cancer to spread.

FACT: A mammogram is the current gold standard for the early detection of breast cancer.

  1. MYTH: A family history of breast cancer means you are likely to develop breast cancer.

FACT: A family history of breast cancer places you in a higher risk group, but ten percent of individuals diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history.

  1. MYTH: Breast cancer is contagious.

FACT: Breast cancer is the result of uncontrolled cell growth of mutated cells that begin to spread into other tissues within the breast.

  1. MYTH: The gene mutation BRCA1 or BRCA2 detected in your DNA means you will definitely develop breast cancer.

FACT: According to the National Cancer Institute, “not every woman who has a harmful BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation will develop breast and/or ovarian cancer. But, a woman who has inherited a harmful mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2 is about five times more likely to develop breast cancer than a woman who does not have such a mutation.”

  1. MYTH: Antiperspirants and deodorants cause breast cancer.

FACT: Researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) are not aware of any conclusive evidence linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and breast cancer.

Material in this blog from the National Cancer Institute and the National Breast Cancer Organization.

Wearing pink or the pink ribbon identifies the wearer with breast cancer awareness and shows moral support for those with breast cancer. I’ll be wearing pink and debunking myths this month.

Will you?