Foodie Friday: Dallas Edition

Thanks for all the great ideas and pics!

Wandering But Not Lost

A happy Friday to you all, my awesome readers! So, I am totally taking inspiration from my friend Jennifer over at AllThingsMessy and presenting you with my very own Foodie Friday post…because I too am SO a foodie! Lol!

So, last weekend I went on a trip to Dallas with one of my best girls, Lori (*waves* Hey, friend!), and it was an extravaganza of shopping, relaxing in the hotel hot tub, and foodie HEAVEN. You have no idea the deliciousness that was experienced! It was a fantastic mini vacay that was much needed. But oh my goodness…the FOOD. If you ever find yourself in the Dallas area, you simply must go to these restaurants! We have been a few times now, and they are officially dubbed the Faves, and we go every chance we get.

The trip started out with a morning stop at Starbucks for coffee because OF…

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Jerkwads and 1st World Problems


This guy.

I’m a reasonable person most of the time. I don’t have a record. I pay my taxes. I buy 2% milk and take vitamins and never litter. I follow the rules.

But when I see stuff like this…well, I feel a little like a vegan trapped at a Texas barbecue. That’s CRAZY.

Why do people think it’s ok to do stuff like this? And what’s more, when I put it on Facebook, a friend of mine responded with “Yeah! I saw that guy there LAST WEEK DOING THE SAME THING.” So this guy is a repeat offender! GRRRR!

I guess I just don’t understand this kind of entitled mentality…someone who says to himself, “You know what? Even though parking spots are rarer than a Longhorn fan in Razorback country, I DESERVE two spaces for my brand new, untagged vehicle. I JUST DO.”

I would NEVER double park my giant truck in front of a popular sushi restaurant! That is unacceptable; only the biggest jerkwads would do that! (My dad, who never cursed, would call people jerkwads.) I might have used another harsher term under my breath.

But wait. Am I REALLY complaining about having to search for a parking spot? Is this the worst thing I’ve had to endure today in my cushy world? Wahhhhhhhh!

Whenever it dawns on me that I’m just as bad as Rude Truck Guy… I’m ashamed.

I often hear people joking about “First World Problems.” That’s really a catch phrase for entitlement. I’m guilty of this, without even realizing it. If the lady at the drive-thru at Starbucks doesn’t immediately come on to take my order, I get miffed. Every second that ticks by I get more annoyed. What’s taking so long? I’m BUSY. I have classes to teach and minds to ignite with knowledge! I can’t be expected to work my magic without my triple capp frapp! THE HORROR. There are people going through serious health issues, mamas grieving their children taken too soon, children going hungry. These are the real tragedies.

How spoiled I am! Here I am, on my way to have dinner with one of my sweetest friends (you all know her as Leigh Ann), at my favorite restaurant that is NOT cheap. Minutes before, I was watching Oklahoma with my Mancub, cuddling with my chihuahua, listening to the rain fall softly on the window of my cozy house. Hours before that, I finished up my first week of my dream job teaching students the joy of writing. I have so many things to be thankful for, but what do I post on Facebook? My outrage at this guy.

Forgive me Jesus.

Thank you for my cozy house that I have the privilege of taking care of. Thank you for my sweet hubby who puts up with my crazy ideas and my obsession with writing and literature. Thank you for my beautiful girls laughing in the kitchen, giving each other a hard time. Thank you for Mancub, who is transforming into a Godly man right before my eyes.

Thank you, Jesus, for these and many more blessings. Soften my heart and show me the ones in need you would have me help.

But listen, while I have you here, could you maybe send a little smiting Jerkwad’s way? Just the smallest smidge of smiting–like a giant bird doo on his precious window. If it’s not too much trouble. Amen!


Do you have a First World Pet Peeve you’d like to vent about? Go ahead! I’m with you, Sister!

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5 Steps to A Great Essay: Teacher Tips

Maybe it’s been a while since your last writing class, or it might have just been last semester. Whatever your situation, it’s never too soon or too late to gain some knowledge about writing.
1. Know your professor’s expectations regarding the assignment. This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many times this step is skipped. Writing a long essay when a short one is assigned is not going to get you extra points. Many students only skim the directions, rushing into the assignment half-heartedly. Make sure you put it in the proper formatting.
2. Know your topic. Do some research so you present a valid argument.
3. Know your audience. In most cases, your professor is your audience, so writing an essay entitled “Why College Writing is a Waste of Time” may not be the best choice.
3. Try a fresh take on an old topic. For example, instead of writing about your favorite football player, why not write about the coach?
4. Take the time to do at least one draft. Don’t put it all together in one night and hope for the best. Trust me, your teacher will be table to tell, and your grade will reflect it.
5. Turn in your best copy. Don’t submit a paper that the dog stepped on (even though the paw print might be cute). Make sure it’s a clean copy, and not something that printed crookedly. Presentation matters.
6. Go to the Writing Center. Don’t know where it is? Ask. It should go without saying that your content and writing should be your best and a tutor is a professional reader.
Take a deep breath, dear student. You’ve got this!


Authentic Chicken Cacciatore

 A few days ago, Lee and I celebrated our 25th anniversary.  That’s a long time,  but it’s not so long that I haven’t forgotten my experiences as a new bride.  I had managed to keep a closely held secret: I didn’t know how to cook.  Not a clue.
My new husband loved me so much he managed to fake enthusiasm when I tried my hand at homemade biscuits.  They were horrible, partially because I overdid it on the baking soda and they were way too salty.  This combined with the fact that I tried to compensate for their saltiness by NOT salting the gravy made the whole thing a disaster.
 Seemed like a good idea at the time.
  Somehow he managed to choke down my cooking, but it became painfully evident that I needed to learn to cook, quick, before we both starved to death.
 That’s where Lee’s little old Italian grandmother, Rae (short for Rafael) came into play.
Being in Nana’s kitchen was always such a feast for the senses.  More than once I witnessed strings of fresh pasta hanging to dry, ready to be bagged for future use, or in our case, a gift for the starving newlyweds.  She always had homemade spaghetti sauce cooking on the stove, or frozen in one pound bags waiting to be brought out at a minutes’ notice. The rich red sauce was not too tart and expertly seasoned.
 If asked nicely she would  be happy to make the cacciatore.  I’m not sure how many generations of Italians in Nana’s family knew this recipe, but Nana was a first generation American, so everything she made was authentic.  None of this shortcut business.
The only substitute she made with her own mother’s recipe was that she didn’t pour the cacciatore sauce over polenta.  The Bausingers liked mashed potatoes better.  It sounds a little strange, but it tastes delicious.
  I was hanging out with her one day when she began getting things from the fridge:  a cut up chicken, some mushrooms, a few potatoes, and then from the pantry:  some tomato sauce, a few spices.  I eyed her warily.  Whatever she was making looked pretty complicated.  But when she asked me casually, “Ever had Chicken Cacciatore, Tina?” and I shook my head, I knew I was about to learn.
  I watched carefully how Nana did everything, from browning the chicken, to adding the spices.  At first, I duplicated her recipe exactly.  It was a success the first time!  As I became an expert, I added my own touches: fresh garlic instead of powder, chicken breasts instead of bone-in chicken, etc.  I knew I had it down when my Lee finished a plate of my version and looked at me with admiring eyes.
            “Tina, don’t tell Nana, but….this is better than hers!”
            Nana died in 2000, but I have passed this on to my daughters in honor of her memory, and in the hopes that when they get married, maybe their poor husband won’t have to suffer the way their father did.
Chicken Cacciatore
1 whole chicken, cut and diced or 2 packages of chicken breasts, diced
2 large cans of tomato sauce
1/2 package sliced mushrooms
1 onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp basil
2 tsp oregano
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 small can tomato paste
For the mashed potatoes:
1 small bag of potatoes
1 cup milk
1 stick of butter
salt and pepper to taste
garlic salt
Peel 8 large potatoes, rinse and dice.  In a large soup pot, put water on to boil the potatoes.  In a large skillet, pour a generous amount of olive oil.  Heat thoroughly  Add onion, garlic,mushrooms and pepper.  Cook for a few minutes until the onions are translucent. Add the chicken, tomato sauce and paste, and spices, cooking until the juices in the chicken run clear.  Simmer about fifteen minutes until thick.
When the water is boiling in the large soup pan, add the peeled and diced potatoes.  Cover and reduce heat. Cook until a butter knife can cut through the potatoes.  Drain carefully and mash, adding butter, milk, salt, pepper and a little garlic salt.  Set aside.
When ready to serve, dollop a half a cup of mashed potatoes on each plate and top with a generous ladle of cacciatore sauce. Serve with garlic bread and salad for a complete meal.  This recipe serves 6 hungry people, or 2 adults and 3 teenagers!


3 Simple Ways to Improve Your Writing & Increase Sales

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Image from the movie "Office Space" Image from the movie “Office Space”

Today, I’m going to give you three ways to instantly improve your writing and sell more books. I’m blessed to have a broad base of experience/expertise which includes corporate consulting and branding. I also spent years in sales and can honestly say, Coffee is for closers. 

What Do You DO?

Last year, I accepted a leviathan project to redo copy for a website and rebrand a struggling company. I first explained my plan and reasoning in a detailed SWOT analysis. The owner was on board and signed off. The existing copy was outdated, bloated, confusing, and failed to appreciate the vast changes in our millennial culture.

I hacked through, reduced as much as possible and reshaped until the site showcased a truly fabulous company. To my horror, the owner came back and wanted me to add a deluge of changes which included mass amounts of extraneous…

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The Cost of Loving You

How much does it cost to love you
Whatever the cost I’ll pay
If you say I must wait for twenty years
It will feel as if only a day
If you tell me you need a fine castle
I’ll build one with my own two hands
If you ask me to live in the desert, my love
I’ll camp on the burning sands
If it cost me a million dollars
I’ll work until I’ve earned two
For whatever you ask it’s a bargain
Just to spend my life with you

After the Honeymoon: 6 Things I’ve Learned in 25 Years of Marriage


Yesterday my husband and I celebrated 25 years together. I was 18 (by merely DAYS) and he was 19. Since we were married in 1989, (notice the big hair and mullet, respectively) we’ve moved about 20 times, had three kids, went back to school, dropped out of school, went back to school and finished. We’ve lost people we loved. We made friends and lost friends. We’ve fought and made up more times than I can count. I don’t claim to have all the answers, and by no means am I proclaiming myself some kind of marriage guru. I’m not. But I can share with you these 5 survival tips I’ve learned the past 25 years–I’ve been around long enough to have made many of these mistakes myself or to have seen them played out to their eventual disaster.
1. Make time to laugh together. I’ve read over and over that parents should make time for a weekly date night. I’m sorry but are you a parent? Do you have jobs, games, grocery shopping, bill paying and other life activities that take up your time? Me too! A weekly date night might be a bit of a stretch but you do have at least an hour to reconnect with the one you love, even if it’s just to talk for a moment before bed. That last hour after the kids are in bed and the dog is chewing something out of sight, talk to each other! Share funny parts of your day. If you don’t have funny parts to share, talk about the not-so-funny parts. Tip: don’t bring up stressful decisions right now. You’re trying to unwind.
2. Don’t take your kid’s side in an argument when they disagree with your spouse. Behind closed doors, you can hold your stand until the cows come home. Just really try to present yourselves as a team to the family. It’s so important. Disclaimer: I’m assuming that your marriage is abuse free here. If you or your kids are being abused, all bets are off. I don’t believe that Jesus wants that for us, and can’t ever be on board to see abuse continue.
3. Never let anyone disrespect your spouse. This goes for family members (your own teens!) as well as friends. Just don’t let them go there. Take it personally. It’s the same as if they disrespected you. In the same vein, be careful to not disrespect your spouse–in private or public. Sometimes in the day-to-day grind of mortgage paying, lawn mowing, tax filing reality, it’s easy to take out your frustrations on those we love. Try not to do this, but if you do–
4. Never be too  right to apologize. Woman up and do it. Your spouse, your family, is worth it.
5. When (not if!) your marriage is struggling, don’t isolate yourselves. Don’t be too proud to talk to someone. We have had marriage counseling in the past, sometimes through a pastor and sometimes not. That’s not always went so well, because sometimes when we are already hurting, the opinion of one person can be biased or judgemental. I’ll never forget the time we went to our pastor and the very first question he asked was about our tithing. The implication being that if we weren’t tithing our ten percent, we were asking for God’s wrath. We were giving as much as we could–and still struggling.
I think it’s better–at least it was for us–to choose a married couple you trust to talk to. Do not discuss your marital issues with someone of the opposite gender: to do so is a recipe for disaster. You are creating intimacy with someone other than your spouse and it’s not ok. But a couple you trust can be a salve for the wounded. It’s good to open up and hear good, solid advice from those who love you–and to hear that maybe it’s not as bad as you think, and that you can make it through this.
6. Stop trying to fix each other and give your irritations to God. Trust Him to address it. Little irritations sometimes turn into big problems, so be aware of your own bad habits. Is God at the center of your marriage? Ask yourself that every single day. The times I’ve felt the most alone have been when we’ve allowed God to be crowded out by other things. There have been times when our marriage has lasted only by the thinnest hair–and by the promise we made to God. When it’s 3:00 in the morning and you’ve sobbed yourself to sleep–sometimes He’s the only one who has whispered: “I’m here. You’re ok. Perservere. Don’t give up.”

Marriage is worth it, but it’s one of the hardest endeavors you’ll ever take on. Don’t go into it blind, dear one. Take nothing for granted.

It’s been through God and the help of others that we’ve made it through this 25 years and look forward to the next.

Contest: What’s your fantasy writing spot?

Just Breathe: 5 Tips for a First Time Professor


You just landed your first professor job. Congratulations! Now that the euphoria and fist-pumping have slowed down to a minimum, that slow-simmering terror sets in. Holy crap, you whisper to yourself. Because, chances are, though you love your subject, you probably know diddly-squat about actually teaching it. I know, my friend. I have been there.
I was asked by a friend if I had any tips for surviving that first harrowing semester. I’m happy to share. It will be ok, I promise.

 Please enjoy this clip from Elle’s first day of class:

1. Just breathe. That’s right. Take a deep breath and remember why you wanted to do this. YOU LOVE THIS SUBJECT. You studied it, took tests, wrote papers like nobody’s business, and worse yet–tortured people with the grisly details of obscure topics, knowing fully well they didn’t give a rip and now it’s your turn. Now, you are the expert. You’ve got this, Prof.
2. Fake it till you make it. I mean this sincerely. My first class I taught was terrifying. Picture this: 36 students, many of them sitting in their desks with their arms crossed. Nah, that’s not intimidating. And to add to the pressure? Two sign language interpreters, one on my left and on my right, poised and ready to physically elaborate on every “Um…uh…” that I uttered. Yes, this happened. So I decided right away that I had two choices: go down in a blaze of glory, or pretend like I have done this a million times. I took choice B. I put on an air of confidence and soon it was legitimate.
3. Wear lots of deodorant. However much you think you need, DOUBLE IT. I don’t know what it is about classrooms. Students are bundled up in parkas, wearing mittens and starting small fires in the back to stave off the frostbite and I’m sweating like a politician in front of St. Peter. Every single time.
4. Do an ice breaker. Have each of the students introduce themselves, and ask a question that will get them talking. This has 2 purposes: first, you don’t have to pronounce unfamiliar names (you can make notes to yourself when they say it) AND you can connect with the students. I usually ask fun questions like “What’s the worst movie you ever saw, and why?” People will usually open up after the initial shyness.
5. If you feel strongly about something, put it in your syllabus. Then, if problems come up later in the semester, you’ve got the law on your side. You’re like the freaking Sheriff in the Wild West of Academia. At least in your own class.

Don’t worry, Professor. It will be ok. You will make it through this and live to tell about it. Until then, stock up on Secret.

Guest Blog:Traci Borum

painting the moon

Please enjoy this guest entry from my good friend Traci Borum. I’ve known her for eight years now…that can’t be possible! She was my creative writing teacher and a great source of encouragement as we both kept receiving rejection after rejection when we were both seeking publishers for our novels. We had a friendly “competition” wherein we sent each other copies of the most biting/most banal rejection letters, and laughed at the amount of rejections a person could receive in a week.
Her first novel, Painting the Moon, is getting rave reviews and the second installment is coming soon!

To Publish or Not to Publish… by Traci Borum

When I teach creative writing, I don’t spend much time discussing how to get published. I’d rather spend time teaching the nuts and bolts of technique or story structure, letting the writing itself be the main focus for students. But when I do talk about publication in the classroom, I always ask students a seemingly simple question: Why do you want to get published?

Sometimes, they actually don’t. Probably a third of all my students express no desire (at this stage of their lives, at least) to see their work in print. A decision I completely respect. These students tell me their reasons: that they’re shy about sharing their work with the public, or that publishing their work makes it less special somehow, or that selling their work makes them feel like they’re selling out.

Some writers simply enjoy the solitude and privacy of sharing their thoughts only with themselves. They want to protect what’s theirs, not let anyone else see it.

But for those who do wish to pursue publication, they first should know why. Is it for the money they think they’ll receive? The fame? Is it for validation of their work? Legitimacy? Because the answer to these questions will be the only things keeping you going when you receive rejection after rejection (or absolute silence, which has now become an acceptable form of rejection).

When you wonder why you’re spending dozens of hours researching agent and publisher submission guidelines if it all ends with no result. When your family and friends probably think you’re crazy for still submitting after all these years. And when you wonder, “How long is long enough? When do I quit trying?”

Here’s my own answer to that “why publish” question. For years, I’ve pursued publication for various reasons: wanting people’s genuine feedback, hoping readers gain some entertainment/escape from my books (just like I receive when I read fiction), and even something as simple as seeing my words bound in print form (opening up my own softback of Painting the Moon weeks ago was a highlight of my life—I felt like Charlie, opening his Wonka candy bar and finding the Golden Ticket peeking through the wrapper. Very surreal).

The weird thing about getting published is that the act of being published didn’t change my stories, didn’t suddenly make them more important or more valuable than when I first put them on paper. But, for me, my stories and characters did seem to gain a new “life,” a new energy, when others read them. One of my favorite quotes by author Kate Morton sums it up well: “No matter how much I adore writing, no matter the pleasure my stories give me, it isn’t until books are read that they really start to breathe.”

I admit—it’s a huge rush when a friend or relative or stranger reads my work and tells me about it. Through that experience, we’ve shared something unique. It’s like they’ve taken a peek into a very personal corner of who I am. There’s an invisible connection between a reader and author when a book is read. A connection that’s hard to explain, hard to pinpoint. And to me, that’s what ultimately makes getting published special. And worth all the effort.


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