Saturday, December 29, 2012

Smitten Fool

(A very random photo that has nothing to do with today's very random post)

-
I'd like to announce that I have now officially hit 70,000 words in my primary WIP, my favorite novel, and also the project I've been spending 4 years of my life on...The Rebels of Florida.

70,000 WORDS!!! *throws confetti* It's hard to believe, on one hand. On the other, it's rather rediculous to celebrate it, because...well, I've been working on this durned book since I was 12, and I would have liked to have finished it two years ago at 14. *Sigh* So if anything, I should be slapping myself for not having accomplished that goal. Oh well. The past is the past and what matters is now, right? I'm just happy to be making even the slightest bit of progress in this project.

To celebrate, I'll let you see a snippet of my most recent writings therein.

 ---
"That was when her heart stopped. She gasped, staring at the wagon sitting out in the front, parked alongside the road. It was a simple Conestoga frame, without the tarp roof attached. But the wagon itself was not what stopped Emma in her tracks.
In it, sat Mr. McIntosh…Silas’ father.
Great heavens, look at me. Agh, my hair, my dress…  Figures they would have to come on such a day…oh, drat!

Emma felt herself breaking into a nervous sweat, as she continued to stare involuntarily at the wagon like a smitten fool."
---

What did you think? I happen to particularly like the last sentence. It really fits Emma well.

Hope everyone is having a wonderful, blessed weekend!


Notice: All work, references and quotes from The Rebels of Florida are copyrighted by the author.

Friday, December 28, 2012

5 Foods to Boost Your Immune System! {FabHealthFriday}


Greetings and salutations! Did everyone had a delightful Christmas? We sure did!
My apologies for not writing a FabHealthFriday post last week, or a WriterlyWednesday post this week. You probably know how it is during this time of year. The word "busy" is replaced with "hectic". And even though we tried to minimize the Christmas craziness this year, it has still been B.U.S.Y.

OK, let's forget the busy-ness for a moment and take a look at one of the many ways to naturally boost your immune system.

As you probably know, "the most wonderful time of the year" is also the biggest time of the year for colds and flu. It's likely you even caught something this season, and maybe it's still lingering. Stuffy noses, runny noses, irritating coughing fits, and sore throats. Don't ya just love it? Not to mention, loss of energy and that yucky, congested feeling in your sinuses.

Nobody likes getting a cold. It's even worse when you happen to catch it right before or during the holidays! How do you avoid this almost-inevitable fate? Let me tell you, it can be terribly challenging if you live in a large family or are constantly exposed to other people.

The best form of medicine, for colds and flu, is prevention. You may hate to hear this because it doesn't help you get over your cold at the moment, but it's a reality none of us can escape. In order to avoid catching "the bug", you have to beef up your immune system long before "the bug" starts flying around.

How can you achieve this? One of the most successful and widely known ways is to keep a steady intake going of fruits and veggies.

1. Kale is a powerhouse full of vitamins and nutrients, and is almost as powerful as broccoli, which as you probably know is at the "top of the food chain" when it comes to loaded greens.
We have been making a salad from fresh, raw, kale leaves, and trying to consume at least a bowl of it daily when we have it available. Toss with some homemade salad dressing, almonds and perhaps some Parmesan cheese, and voila! A super-healthy super-lunch(or snack!)!

2. Oranges, grapefruit and other citrus are also essential this time of year or any time when you want to give your immune system a lift. Oranges are chock-full of vitamin C, and one of the roles of vitamin C is to protect cells by neutralizing free radicals. When free radicals build up in your body, they cling to healthy cells, causing permanent damage. Free radicals cause chronic diseases, like cancer and heart disease. By eating an orange or two daily, you can help your body ward off disease and sickness. Oranges are also full of vitamin A, which helps with vision improvement and strengthening/protection of the eyes.

3. Raw, unprocessed, virgin coconut oil can be used a variety of different ways, either by oil pulling, direct ingesting or incorporating it into your meals. It can be a replacement for butter, whether in cooking or just a bit spread on a slice of toast. Coconut oil is an incredible resource which promotes longevity and overall radiant health. It can also aid in weight loss. Studies have show that intake of coconut oil can help our bodies mount resistance to both viruses and bacteria that can cause illness, making this the perfect food to add to your diet to boost your immune system. Even more, it also can help to fight off yeast, fungus, and candida.

4. Garlic. Raw garlic. I'll warn you now, there is fire in this fiesty little plant. A tablespoon alone (crushed) can be painful going down. But, there is reason for this, and don't overlook garlic simply for its smell and taste. Garlic is one of THE best medicinal plants in the natural world. It has been used centuries over for both flavoring and overall health. It is also one of the biggest immune system boosters you will find.
Garlic is a widely recognized health enhancing supplement. It promotes the well-being of the heart and immune systems with antioxidant properties and helps maintain healthy blood circulation. One of garlic's most potent health benefits includes the ability to enhance the body's immune cell activity. How to utilize this stinky but super plant? Chop up several cloves, throw it in your chili, soup, spaghetti, just about anything! Just make sure you add it into the recipe right before you are going to eat it, so that it doesn't cook and the nutrients remain intact. Or, you can just mince it and eat it raw, or with some honey. We do this frequently...it is not a pleasant experience, but it is worth it. Garlic will wipe out just about any fungal growth in your body, and as stated above, will greatly build your immune system. Just be prepared, and have a glass of water nearby if you do decide to consume it raw. ;)

Last but not least, a quote from bulkherbstore.com:
"One easy way to keep the immune system in high gear is raw garlic, but it stinks so bad that we use our Double “E” Immune Booster. Our recipe, which includes the whole Echinacea plant and Elderberry herb (as well as several other immune boosting herbs), has proven to be a fast and effective way to provide the body with the defense it needs in times of repair."

5. My family has been making and drinking Double E Immune Booster tea quite frequently this winter, and not only is it extremely beneficial health wise, but it is also makes a delicious hot drink which will warm you up on a chilly day. We buy several packages of the herb-mix, put half a cup or so in our percolator, and drink it throughout the day mixed with a spoon of honey. Mmm! This is a product worth spending for, and my entire family enjoys drinking it. What better way during the cold, wintry months, than to get your immune system boosted through a hot, cozy cup of tea?

There are many other ways to give a lift to your immune system, and now days you can learn just about anything by googling on the web. I highly encourage you to do some research of your own about health topics. Learn all you can, and then apply that knowledge in your life! God has provided us so many resources for keeping our temples healthy. Let's take advantage of those resources!

Blessings,

Monday, December 24, 2012

Wintry Little Faces


Merry Christmas, you dear, wonderful followers who have taken the time to come read my rather pathetic little blog posts. I am honored by you who would take a few minutes out of your busy day to read something I've written, you should know that it means a lot to me. So, thank you. Thank you very much.

Wishing everyone a lovely day today! Whether or not it be a white Christmas, (you think we get white Christmases?!? In Florida?!? Seriously?!) may it be a truly special time for you and your family and friends. Enjoy your cool, chilly, perfect-day-for-a-cup-of-hot-chocolate days while they're here. We sure are!
Remember, as this year draws to a close, how blessed you truly are, how much you have been given.

And, don't ever forget to do what you were created to do..."Give unto the Lord the glory due His Name..." (1 Chronicles 16:29)

Warm fuzzy hugs,

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Guest Post: Literary Magazines in 5 Steps {WriterlyWednesday}


 
{today's guest post is brought to you by Ciara Hope of Forward Your Goal}
----
 
My New Year Resolution for 2012 was to receive ten rejection letters from literary magazines.
 
This may seem backward, but from what I’d heard about the competitiveness of the literary market, it seemed both realistic and doable. For years I’d heard professional writers speak on the value of perseverance when submitting your work out into the world, some suggesting that writers get a list of fifty markets for a single piece, and that they should expect to get turned down at least as many times.
 
For the longest time, I let these facts discourage me from submitting. I figured I’d spend more time honing my craft on my own, getting together some quality pieces, and worry about publishing when I felt ready.
 
The truth is, no matter what you’re trying to get published, whether a novel, short stories, or poetry, literary magazines are the ideal place to practice your craft and get publishing credentials. The kind that stand out on a query letter and scream, “hey, I know what I’m doing, and I love writing too much to let a couple rejections discourage me.”
 
I wish I’d known years ago all I do now about submitting to literary magazines, so here I’m sharing what I’ve learned in the past year:
 
1.      Go to Duotrope.com. Starting next year, you’ll have to pay for an account, but it’s well worth it. Use the search function to find publications that fit the genre, style, even the specific topic of your piece.
 
2.      Go to the publication’s website and read some of their material. Most have samples available for free online, but some might require you to buy a copy.
 
What are you looking for? Assess the style, tone, length, and topics the editors seem to favor and compare it to your own. Are the stories funny? Grim? Disjointed, or omniscient? The more you read, the better you can tell the difference between editor’s tastes.
 
3.      Read the guidelines, and follow them. Most publications will have a submission guide on their website. It will give info like word count, format, page numbering, etc., as well as whether you should submit by mail, email, or online.
 
4.      Submit. The worst thing that happens is you get a form rejection. Even those are pretty encouraging, saying things like “it wasn’t right for us,” or “we didn’t have enough room.” The lines are corny, but it does soften the blow. And anyway, if you persevere and keep submitting, you may…
 
5.      Get accepted. In the process of colleting ten rejection letters, I received my first acceptance, way sooner than I thought it would come. It’s important to stay realistic and not have an unattainable timeframe for your goals, but dreaming is still allowed. And when a victory comes, don’t hesitate to celebrate, share your joy, and then get right back to writing and submitting.
=
 
Ciara Hope is a writer and blogger at Forward Your Goal. If you have a goal, literary or otherwise, check out her blog at http://forwardyourgoal.blogspot.com/.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

{film review} "Unbreakable"


Film Review - "Unbreakable"

Howdy y'alls! Well, it's Saturday already. This week has been so busy for me and I'm sure you can probably relate when I say that this whole Christmas season is just plain hectic!

Last night my brother, dad and I watched Unbreakable. It's one of my dad's favorite films so it wasn't the first time we'd seen it. I've been immersed in film production, screenwriting and story/plot creation for the past several months, and, since I am always one of the heaviest film critics in our family...during the film when nobody wants a running commentary...I decided I would save the critique for an official review.

Unbreakable is a rather unique work in many aspects. It has been called one of the top ten superhero films of all time. You might be thinking, oh whatever, just another cliche' ridden movie overflowing with daring, (not to mention unrealistic) escapades and said superhero always saving the day

Prepare for a surprise, then.  What makes Unbreakable different than your run-of-the-mill action/thriller flick with masked marvels zipping about the universe, beating up the bad guys and pretty much always securing a happy ending?

 (Warning - contains spoilers)

David Dunn (played by Bruce Willis) is a Philadelphia security guard, struggling with figuring out what his purpose in life is. At one point in his prior life he had been a college football player, and was quite passionate about his promising career. Then he met Audrey, who stole his heart...so much, in fact, that he decided to give up football and get married. (Audrey hated the sport - it was the only thing keeping the two lovers apart)

Fast forward to the present. David and Audrey are past the days of being enamored with each other. Sadly, their relationship is in a precarious situation and their marriage dissolving. This, as can be expected, is highly distressing to their young son, Joseph.

Returning from a job interview in New York, David is the sole survivor of a terrible train wreck--out of the 132 passengers, he alone walks out of the hospital alive...and what's more incredible, completely unharmed.
Not a scratch, bruise or fractured limb. Nothing.
Of course, as David realizes, throughout his entire life, he has never sustained an injury of any sort. Once, as a child, he had caught pneumonia, that was from nearly drowning in a pool. Beyond that...he has never been hurt.

Two other accidents have occurred in his lifetime, in which, he was once again the only survivor.

Enter Elijah Price (played by Samuel L. Jackson). At birth, he was diagnosed with a rare disease in which bones break quickly. Quite opposite to David, he is weak, fragile and labeled the title "Mr. Glass". He too is unsure of his purpose in life.

Elijah contacts David, who proposes that he (David) is a real instance of the kind of person after whom comic-book superheroes are modeled. David tries to ignore him, but Elijah stalks him and his wife, trying to get his attention. To relieve his family from further distress, David finally agrees to hear Elijah out, and begins to test himself. One day, while weight lifting with Joseph, they discover that his physical strength is far beyond what he previously thought. Joseph, struck in awe, begins to idolize his father and think him to be a superhero.

David is highly doubtful of the whole concept but at the same time, you can tell he is thinking about the possibility. Over time, he discovers that, besides possessing incredible physical strength, and even being potentially invincible, he also holds another strange yet incredible ability. When he touches someone, even brushes into them a little bit, he is able to glimpse immoral acts they've committed.

Eventually, influenced by Elijah, he goes to a train station and tracks down an evil janitor who is holding a family hostage in their own home. He rescues the children and strangles their captor.

What's fascinating about this story is that David is just an ordinary guy, setting aside his extraordinary abilities. Throughout the film, he reacts with disbelief to any concept of himself being superhero-like. He doesn't take his strength and use to to bring glory to himself.  His character is certainly not perfect, but he does seem to posses a level of humility.

The cinematography was brilliant. I loved the director's choices in angles and lighting. What is clever, is his use of taking particular scenes and creating a very subtle superhero effect...e.g., in many scenes, it is raining and David is wearing a trench coat-length rain coat. Filmed at certain angles, his coat seems to mimic a cape, and his hooded face seemed to appear superhero-like in the shadows. I also liked the use of filming through glass or reflections, whenever "Mr. Glass", a.k.a. Elijah was in the picture. Technique wise, this film was rich and multi-fold. It is a film in which you need to pay close attention to details. What's happening in the foreground of the shot. Film angles. The music.

Ah, yes, the music! One of my favorite things to examine in films in the score. I was not too particularly impressed with James Newton Howard's work in Unbreakable, however, that is probably because I am a fan of the more dramatic, bold scores such as used in The Dark Knight/The Dark Knight Rises, The Chronicles of Narnia, etc. In some films, however, subtle and minimalist is needed. Unbreakable is one of those films. JNH's work fit this movie perfectly. There is so much subtle detail in the film and even the main character himself is subtle.

I do have a favorite track of the score, and that is "Visions". It is a cool, metropolitan beat which fits its accommodating scenes perfectly. (listen to it here)  

Setting aside the music, and videography details, I will warn you, as with many cinematic works these days, there are a lot of negative elements in Unbreakable.
This is not a film for children. We had to fast-forward a scene which was sexually explicit. There are instances of using both God and Jesus' names in vain, not to mention some cuss/curse words thrown in the mix throughout the film. There is also some violence, as David beats up the sadistic janitor and strangles him.
It is implied that the childrens' parents were murdered by the janitor, their bodies are shown briefly.

One of the more disturbing elements of the film, to me, was David's ability to see sins and wicked/immoral deeds committed by people he touched. What made it disturbing? Well, the fact that they show us what those deeds actually are.  He bumps into a woman and sees that she stole from a jewelry shop. This is minor compared to the visions he sees of  the janitor and a rapist. (The latter, was the scene we had to fast-forward through) Obviously this whole concept of seeing people's hidden sins is foolishness since only God can see our inner heart and secret deeds.

Other parts which were negative included a scene where Joseph, convinced his father truly is invincible, picks up a loaded gun and almost shoots David, trying to prove that his father would not die if shot. David ends up threatening to leave for New York if the boy shoots, and manages to get the gun out of his hands.

In the beginning of the film, on the train home from the New York interview, a mid-drift showing woman sits down in the seat next to him and he removes his wedding ring, obviously interested in the woman. I found this disturbing, how quick he would throw away his marriage for somebody else, if he could. He does end up creeping the woman out, and she finds a new seat, he never sees her again because soon after the train derails and he's the only survivor. But nonetheless, "the heart is exceedingly wicked". It was obvious, he would have liked to get a date with her.

So. My conclusion rests here. While there are both positives and negatives to this film, and scores of raw detail from the editing and cinematography to consider for the study of it alone, I cannot say I endorse it completely. In some ways it was a good film. But negative and sin tends to taint the picture quite heavily once it is thrown in the mix.

To cut to the chase, it's a unique story, with a unique cinematic presence. The photography itself was excellent. Some of the events which occur in the story, not so excellent. Oh, and the ending? Pretty surprising plot twist. I love surprise endings.

For a superhero movie, it was pretty good. Primarily, because it's not your average superhero movie.  

Sincerely,

Friday, December 14, 2012

Oil Pulling {FabHealthFriday}


Who here has ever heard of oil pulling? If you have, you probably already know about the amazing health benefits of this interesting practice. But for those of you, who, like me, until 2 weeks ago, had no clue about what it is, this post is for you.

What is oil pulling?
Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic remedy for oral health and detoxification. It involves the use of pure oils as agents for pulling harmful bacteria, fungus, and other organisms out of the mouth, teeth, gums and even throat. How this works? You take a tablespoon of melted organic coconut oil (We get ours from TropicalTraditions.com and highly recommend them) OR organic sesame seed oil and swish it around in your mouth for anywhere from 10-20 minutes.

It may seem like a while to hold the oil in your mouth. And in the beginning, it can certainly feel that way. It is something you must get accustomed to doing. What I did is set the timer for 20 minutes, and then try to go about my regular business....chores, writing, school, etc.  Maybe this could be your computer time spell since time seems to go by quicker while on the internet. Just remember to keep that oil moving inside your mouth. If you get tired of swishing, use your tongue to push the oil around. Just don't swallow! The oil is pulling toxins and bacteria from your gums, tongue, and roof of your mouth, you don't want to reabsorb these toxins again by ingesting. Also, do not lean your head back and gargle the oil.

If 20 minutes is too long (or even 10 minutes, for that matter) and gets tiring for you, spit out the oil in the toilet and get another fresh tablespoon. Swish it around for the remainder of the time.
When you're done, spit the oil into the toilet and rinse very thoroughly. Keep in mind all the bacteria, germs and toxins which were just extracted, and this should cause you to want to rinse very, very well. I like to even brush my teeth after a oil pull. (I do it in the morning after breakfast which is convenient for the teeth-brushing)

What are the health benefits of oil pulling?
  • Overall strengthening of the teeth and gums and jaws.
  • Prevention of diseases of the gums and mouth, such as cavities and gingivitis.
  • Prevention for bad breath
  • Potential holistic remedy for bleeding gums
  • Prevention of dryness of the lips, mouth and throat.
  • Possible holistic treatment for TMJ and general soreness in the jaw area.
    • Migraine headache relief
    • Correcting hormone imbalances
    • Reducing inflammation of arthritis
    • May help with gastro-enteritis
    • Aids in the reduction of eczema
    • May reduce symptoms of bronchitis
    • Helps support normal kidney function
    • May help reduce sinus congestion
    • Some people report improved vision
    • Helps reduce insomnia
    • Reduced hangover after alcohol consumption
    • Aids in reducing pain
    • Reduces the symptoms of allergies
    • Helps detoxify the body of harmful metals and organisms
Scientists believe that the lipids in the oil both pull out bacteria, as well as stop bacterial from sticking to the walls of the oral cavity. Oil pulling reduces the amount of S. mutans (germ) count in both teeth plaque and mouth saliva.
 In addition, oil pulling may also increase saponification in the mouth, creating a soapy environment that cleanses the mouth as vegetable fat is an emulsifier by nature. Oil pulling cleanses out harmful bacteria, as well as reduces fungal overgrowth. These oils also possibly help in cellular restructuring, and are related to the proper functioning of the lymph nodes and other internal organs.

Oil pulling has been said to aid people in weight loss. So if you're wanting to shed a couple pounds, add this routine to your day and see what happens!

Blown away yet? I could go on. There is lots of information which you can find further on oil pulling, I only gave you the basics today.

Was this helpful to you? Have you ever tried oil pulling? Have any success stories? I'd love to hear about it!

Happy Friday!



Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Immersed in Disaster, Drowing in Calamity {WriterlyWednesday}


  --
Sometimes I wonder, will I ever see you again
Can't even remember how long it's been
My head is spinning, my heart broke long ago
And where you are, if only I could know
If only I could know, if only I could know

We've been immersed in disaster, drowning in calamity,
And sometimes I wonder, if this is all a dream
We've been through the fire, the darkness has come
What I wanna know is, can this battle be won?
Can this battle be won, can this battle be won

(From a song I'm currently writing for Fugitive)
---

Well, Wednesday is once again upon us! Can you believe it's already mid-December? It's mind blowing how times flies these days.

Speaking of time, who doesn't like ways to help manage time better, and get more done in your day?

In writing, time can be very important. Especially if you're partaking in a contest or have set an ambitious goal to complete. Last month, dozens of young authors competed in NaNoWriMo, a contest that most of you reading this probably already know about, and maybe were in, yourselves. (For those of you who don't know what NaNo is- Basically, you have one month to write a 50,000 word novel. Now, that's real ambition, no?)  Obviously, only so much can be done in 24 hours, 30 days, 12 months. And time only seems to be picking up its pace, so we often feel left in the dust.

Time management is invaluable, and something I'm still trying to learn and master. It's hard. Another thing that is invaluable, is productivity in what you do. To complete your goals, productivity and time management go hand in hand are are absolutely vital.

I tend to get side-tracked when I'm on the computer and trying to write. Of course, it doesn't help that I am very scatterbrained, either. With Facebook, Pinterest, Youtube and all the many, many distractions on the web, being productive while trying to write can be very difficult. You can force yourself to ignore the distractions, which is really what it all comes down to. And an awesome way to do this is something I just discovered the other day.

What is it? *drum roll please* Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr......


This program is pretty amazing. You can get it for iPad or desktop, but both options require forking over $10 so I opted for the free, online version which suits my purposes equally well.

What exactly is Write or Die and how does it help with productivity in writing?

So you have this screen which you type in.You can set either a word goal, time goal, or both, and the program lasts until you meet either goal. As long as you keep writing/typing, everything is fine. Butttt...as soon as you stop, that changes. Depending on what level you have Write or Die set at, different consequences occur. For example, on "Normal", when you stop typing, after a number of seconds a highly annoying, obnoxious sound starts playing, and does so until you start typing again.
On "Easy", if you remain inactive after a couple seconds, a little box pops up, reminding you to keep writing.
On "Kamikaze", (probably my favorite level) things can a little crazier. If you fail to keep typing/writing, you are only given a mere few seconds before the screen turns red and your writing actually starts unwriting itself. Yes, that can be pretty scary to observe. Your words methodically disappearing on the screen, one by one.
On all 3 levels, during inactivity, and building up to the 'consequences', the screen will turn a light pink and gradually progress into a deep red.

I find this program useful for keeping me focused 100% on the project I'm working on. If you don't devote 100% attention, you get the consequences. If you are like me, an extremely easily distracted writer, you need to try this. It may very easily help change that problem.

Not to forget, it's also extremely good for writing quickly, either for word wars, or just to get the words out swiftly in a specified amount of time. I will point out that I do not use Write or Die for finalized writing. Because of the constant time prompts, it forces you to write with no breaks for thinking long and hard on your sentences and word choices. So I would recommend this for creating rough drafts from which you then copy to your word processor and expound upon.

Hope y'all are having a blessed week so far!

In Christ,

 

Friday, December 7, 2012

How to Get Natural Highlights {FabHealthFriday}


 {Howdy y'all!}

Guess what! As dictated by the title, I'm starting another column here on Apassionata, one specifically for health, herbalism, fitness and natural home remedies. And, as also dictated by the title, it will be posted every (hopefully at least!) Friday!

In today's FabHealthFriday kick-off post, we're going to talk about how to get beautiful, natural highlights in your gorgeous tresses.

Who doesn't love a little contrast in their hair?

I have never, ever dyed my hair, and believe that all women (and men, too, for that matter) have no business doing so. I believe God created all His creatures unique, and beautiful, everyone in his/her own, special way. Even just in the topic of hair, this applies so much. Look at all the different kinds of hair people have! My hair is straight and long, while my best friend's is super curly and shorter. Some people have naturally thick hair, while others complain their's is far too thin.

But whether you have a headful of raven black curls, a mop of fiery red kinks, or straight, coffee-colored tresses, you really should be thankful for the hair that you were born with. I have witnessed too many a lovely young woman dye the life out of their already-beautiful hair. There's nothing wrong with wanting to look nice, and that is indeed in our nature as women to want to do so, but it's a whole other thing when you become discontent with your hair and want to alter it drastically because of that.

Besides, when you chemically dye your hair, you're actually weakening and destroying your lovely tresses. The chemicals in most hair dyes are extremely harsh and can cause a good deal of stress on your locks.

Maybe, however, you have noticed slight, natural highlights of another color in your hair, and you happen to really like those natural highlights. You would like to bring them out, draw attention to them, enhance them.

Or, perhaps you don't exactly have any noticeable highlights and you'd like to naturally add in some.

The following was taken from "Happy Hair at Last", a great hair article on BulkHerbStore.com. (love that site!)

"Do you want to have red highlights? I did last spring! You can get beautiful red highlights by using Calendula Flowers, Red Rooibos Tea, Red Rose Petals and/or Hibiscus Flowers as a final hair rinse. I simply used a quart jar and put approximately 3-4 teaspoons of the dried herb of choice (you can use just one of the herbs or all four herbs) into the jar and poured boiling water over the herbs. I let it steep for 10-15 minutes, and then strained the herbs out and let the tea cool.

After I shampooed and conditioned my hair, I poured the cooled tea over my hair, catching the tea in a bowl under my head so that I could pour it over my hair several times. I did not rinse my hair after that, but rather let my hair air dry with the tea still in it. You can rinse the tea out of your hair, but if you don’t the highlights will show up more quickly. This is an all-natural way of achieving highlights, so don’t expect the highlights to show up right away. Sometimes it can take a month or two to start seeing the color.

I am going blonde this summer and for blond highlights, I am using Chamomile Flowers (whole or powder will work), Calendula Flowers, and Lemon (peel or juice will work). I had dark highlights last fall and used Rosemary, Nettle Leaf, Black Tea, Lavender, Black Walnut Hull Powder, Cinnamon, and Coffee to get that color. Follow the above red highlight rinse instructions, substituting the blond herbs for blond highlights, or the dark herbs for dark highlights."

I have been using red rooibos tea as a rinse for my hair, the last several weeks. I have natural, auburn/burnt orange highlights in my hair, and I have always loved them. When I came across this article, I was thrilled to discover a chance to naturally bring out and enhance my highlights. I would highly suggest using this article above if you would like to enhance your pre-existing highlights or even get some entirely new ones.

And, besides the tea rinse being a good source for adding and enhancing that natural contrast in your mane, it's ALSO incredibly great for your hair's health in general. Ever since I started using the red rooibos tea as rinse after my shower, my hair has felt healthier and softer. Of course nobody in their right mind would turn away the possibility and chance of having silkier, more vibrant looking hair, no?

Do you have highlights? Have you ever tried enhancing them naturally? I'd love to hear about it!

Blessings,


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Getting from Point A to Point B {writerly wednesday}

(taken while at Wheelock College, in Boston MA eariler this year.)
--

Writerly Wednesday!
Doesn't that sound charming? I don't even know if 'writerly' is a word. But whether or not it is, I am starting a new column on Apassionata, hopefully-every-Wednesday, concerning the grand and glorious (most of the time, anyways) topic of writing!

I figured this blog has gotten to be both neglected and, like me, scatterbrained. Randomness with no rhyme or reason. Hey, I can't even tell you when my next blog post will be!

So. I figured I needed to force myself to be a little more orderly and put-together on this blog.
I am going to try to have a health/fitness/herbalism column, and maybe a guest post now and then.

Today, I want to talk to you about something many of us novel-writers face.

There are many tough spots that we must overcome, in being an author; but one of them which I have been hearing quite a bit about lately is how to get from point A to point B.

Does this scenerio relate to you?

You've written out a plan for your novel. You've mentally pondered upon the details, mulling them over and over again night and day. You already have a plan for exactly what happens to each character. You've planned an intense climax for the middle of the book, and a  brilliant, unexpected conclusion for the ending.
You're absolutely DYING to get to that dramatic scene where your MC clashes with her mortal enemy at the grocery store while picking out sugar-free yogurt. You're itching to write that heart-wrenching part where she loses the love of her life, or maybe the sequence where she discovers what REALLY happened to her long lost parents.
Only problem is, that scene with the mortal enemy doesn't come for at least 5 more chapters. And MC losing the love of her life? It feels like an eternity away before you'll make it to THAT part. You might as well forget about discovering the secret of her parents, at this point.
You're not sure how you'll get to those scenes, and before you know it,  you find yourself stuck in a morass of writer's block.

So what do you do, when this happens? How do you get from point A to point B, and accomplish doing so in an interesting, captivating manner which will hold the reader's attention?

I am not claiming to know it all. I assure you, I have much to learn still.
However, in my four years of writing The Rebels of Florida, I have learned quite a bit about writing, and this problem I have encountered often.

My advice?
  1. If you're stuck at the beginning of the book, and not much is seemingly happening in the story, focus on making sure the reader gets well aquainted with your MCs. Expound upon questions: Why is so-and-so where he's currently at in life? How did he get there? What are so-and-so's goals for life? What does so-and-so believe? Does he have any passions which keep him fired up about life? Is he currently stuck in any predicaments or struggles? While doing this, try not to give all their back story away, as this can be delved into later, and you can always keep your readers guessing in some way or another. Introduce your characters in a way which causes the audience to love them and want to know more about them. Make their character and being distinct and memorable, paint a clear picture in the reader's mind. Build up gradually to the climax. Stick in little clues which, when the reader has finished the book and looked back at the early chapters, will all piece together to form the dramatic conclusion . Tuck in little tidbits which will point to the climax you're anticipating.
  2. If you're stuck at the middle of the book, and that big, dramatic scene with the mortal enemy is literally chapters away, this can be one of the toughest spots. If you're writing a novel based closely upon reality, I would suggest focusing on the MC's life....not the flamboyant, elaborate parts of his life, but the mundane, everyday rituals which he must perform. Stuff which takes up 98% of his life. Because we all know that 98% of our life is going to be everyday routine, and 2% skydiving and chases through the Amazan rainforest. (For most of us, at least.) Unless your character doesn't fit under the 'most of us' catagory, he will be more believeable and relateable if you focus on the peeves he must deal with daily. So he hates washing dishes, but he does it because he wants to help his elderly grandmother. He spends an hour or two everyday mucking out horse stalls because he and his family live on a large farm in nowheresville. Bring out the reality you want to portray for your MCs.
  3. Delve into back story. If you can't think of what to write for chapter 12, consider focusing on the MC's past. Perhaps this is the chapter that she begins to seriously muse what became of her parents, so long ago that nobody remembered the details. 
  4. Something else, that another writer recommended to me not long ago, is to plan out what happens in each chapter. In precise detail. Map out what events unfold in chapter 4. Blueprint what occurs in chapter 25. You can always change or alter the chapter map if you wish. This has helped me greatly, and it helps me feel a ton more organized and relaxed about my book. You might want to just spend an hour or two creating a strong chapter map before you jump back into the actual writing process.    
So these are a few tips. I hope they have been helpful to you writer friend who are reading this. I know that not everyone is writing historical fiction, and I know many lovely people who are writing fantasy and genres completely opposite to historical fiction.
Nonetheless, some of these notes can apply to virtually any genre, in principle.
Each person's writing will vary vastly from another's. Don't try to compare yourself to other people and their work. Your style is your own, and yours alone.


Blessings,

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Poker Face


---
"He scanned the group full of people with his dark eyes, potraying an emotionless and almost hardened expression on his face. His emotions, contrary to what he was manisfesting physically, were going haywire; yet he dared not show them. His mind was racing, and his heart whammed against his insides like a hammer, the force making it difficult for him to stand completely still. People were staring at him, glaring at him, leering at him. He could reveal none of  his inner thoughts or feelings. He didn't dare let them escape from his soul. He had to leave that poker face painted exactly the way it was when he had first put it on. His survival relied on it."
---

Ok, so the photo of the clover flowers which I took in DC a month ago has NOTHING to do with today's post. Nothing whatsoever. And no, the little blurb of drama above doesn't come from any of my written works in progress. It's based off of several different characters within those projects, though. Several of my charries have been in the guy above's shoes. Some are in this scenerio quite often and painting on a poker face is just a part of their everyday routine.

The poker face. One of the best expressions you can use when you are trying to appear enigmatic, fearless or inconspicuous. Or all the above. Maybe you want to hide your fear or concern for the good of those younger siblings of yours who might be worried or confused if they saw you crying or wide eyed in terror. Maybe you have potential enemies surrounding you at every angle as you walk down a crowded city sidewalk. You must appear low-key, unassuming, unobtrusive. You walk with your eyes staring blankly ahead of you, ignoring the eyes which may be watching you that very minute. If they knew who you were...things could get very bad, very quick. You must appear very unremarkable.  

Or perhaps you are leading your little siblings through the wilderness, trying to escape from a Communistic governement which would imprison you for your beliefs. You don't dare show any fear in your eyes lest the littles see, which they certainly need not. They're already scared enough as it is; they need you to be strong when they are not. So you dare not let them down. You put on a poker face.

There are many cases and instances when this expression comes in handy for less serious, dire reasons.
Most of us aren't being chased through jungles and sneaking through NYC on a mission of utmost importance.

We do however face challenges and struggles daily which either make or break us. Maybe you give your brother a compliment and he snaps back angrily at you for something you thought he'd long forgot about. Maybe you thought you finished washing all those dirty dishes and you turn around to find a whole counter-full more of them behind you.

Little things which irk, frustrate and annoy. These can be the hardest times for putting on a poker face or, even better, smiling and keeping a cheery countenance, which is what we as Christ-followers SHOULD be doing.

Sometimes a poker face is necessary, and many times it would be far better for us to simply paint one on instead of letting our true emotions flow out upon those around us. While it can be a good thing to allow yourself to be transparent, especially with immediate family and very close friends, there's also a very valid need for poker faces, too, in the proper times.

One danger which has wrecked, destroyed and even killed, in some extreme instances? Saying too much. Showing too much.

There's a time and a season for everything.

Back to using poker faces in writing, I admire my characters which are constantly utilizing the expression. Or, more fitly. I respect them. They are not squishy sissies who babble goofiness and wear stupid looks on their faces. Although some of them are hardened, jaded and skeptical of most everything, they do not speak idle words and they watch and calculate every move they make because their utter survival depends on doing so. Amidst their brokenness or rough pasts, they have learned to control their tongues and guard their lips.

That is not an easy thing to do. And even though it would be very nice to see them smile once in a while, I still respect them because they posess quite a deal of discipline. Not everybody does and it's a hard thing to aquire.

Well, there's your very random post on poker faces. Whether or not it will be beneficial to you? I don't know. But I hope it will be. :)

Sincerely,

 
 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Hammered Dulcimer Addictions + Everyday Blessings

My most recent sketch, which I titled "Classical."

Did I ever tell y'alls how much I am suddenly addicted to bluegrass? Did I ever mention how recently I came to be utterly obsessed with hammered dulcimers?


Here is one of the hammered dulcimer performances I am currently addicted to. It all started a couple days ago when a friend from church gave us some CDs of hammered dulcimer music. Oh.my.gosh. Can somebody say heavenly?!?!

I am thoroughly infatuated with the instrument now. If ANYBODY knows of a good one for sale...I needn't say more. *wink* Let's just say I will be forever in your gratitude if you happen to have one you wouldn't mind parting with. ;)


Besides that being my most recent obsession? Today was an awesome day. Really, it was. It was one of the most productive days I have had in a little while now.

 | Got schoolwork done that was lonngggggg overdue. | Kept chores and meal-making under control. | Started teaching my 2nd youngest brother to play guitar. | Worked in the 2nd garden plot behond the house which is a desolate patch of dirt right now than anything else. It USED to be lush, rich soil. But after months of neglect, that changed. |  Got to have lovely chats on the phone with some dear friends who live out of state and I haven't had the chance to talk with for AGES. | Got to fool around a bit on the piano! I'm not going to say I 'practiced' because I don't think the time I spent is worthy of that title. It was mainy just working on some of my own compositions and fooling around with creating some random new melodies. I get so sidetracked when I am playing the piano. One moment, I'll be working on a specific piece and the next I'm fiddling up some tune entirely different and of its own. | I continue to thrive on my insanity. | God is SOOOOOO good to me. I am soooo thankful to Him for all that He has done for me. <3



So. Today was a fabulous day. I forgot to mention, we have a new dog. His name? Diesel. Yes, Diesel. Hey, it wasn't my idea. :P He is who he is.

And I got to do another sketch at dinner. Hope y'all like it!


Blessings,

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

IMPORTANT NOTICE



Hey y'all, this is my film company's latest flick. We're trying to make it go viral and would really really really appreciate it if you could help us spread it around. There isn't much time left and there are 2 vital points in this film which people need to see.

The election is fast approaching. What are YOU going to do about it?

Blessings,

Randomosities, Art & Fluffy Nothingness


Well, today you get a big pile of stuff that doesn't even fit together. Randomosities. Blurdom. Craziness.

You get an attempted self portrait I did last night. I can't decide who it really is, though. Me, my contemplating, pondering self? Or ContentiousPianoNut (name changed to protect character), who is basically me in written form, in my novel? If that's the case than I gave her a SERIOUS hair cut which she would hate immensely. Of course, I guess I would hate it, too. But that's just the way I decided the hair would look best, here.

 I actually rather like how I did her...er...my hair. If you have any honest, blunt critique I would appreciate hearing it, even if you tell me you think my work is terrible. Personally, to me, these days, empty flattery is worth almost nothing and blunt truth is worth a million bucks or more.
It's an art to be able to tastefully portray what you're REALLY thinking about something, in a loving, gentle way, without coming across as sugar-coating it or dumping heaps of fake praise.
I appreciate compliments as long as they are heartfelt. If they are, then it's a blessing. Sugary cotton-candy consistancy fluffy nothingness? Words spoken simply because the person wanted to try and be 'polite' or overly generous? It is hard to stomach flattery. I am not bashing the lovely people who pour heaps of compliments and tell everyone "good job" a gazillion times. I know a number of very sweet people who do this and I am not saying it is evil. It can work well with little children in building confidence and affirmation of their talents and jobs well done.

There comes a point however when honesty and semi-blunt or even downright bluntness can enter and be fully appreciated. I embrace honesty and heartfelt words. The friend that may only compliment me once in a while? And, when he/she does, it is done very sparsly? I can usually tell they sincerely mean it when they tell me I did a good job.
It's harder to believe the person who dumps bucketfulls of "GREAT JOB!"s on you seemingly 24/7.

Sincerity.
There's an untold amount of value in that virtue.

Ok, ok, I'll stop ranting about fluffy nothingness and flattery.


Did I tell you this last Saturday Southern Lights got to play at another venue?
Well, in case I didn't. We did! The venue? The annual McIntosh 1890's Festival, which attracts 50,000 people yearly.
It being a super fun time of fellowship. My beautiful, sweet grandmother helped us with the transportation of getting there and accompanied us during the day, which was another huge blessing.
I know God blessed the opportunity and used us to point people towards Him. It was so amusing to watch people's reactions as they passed us or hung around and listened for a few minutes.
Typically, people appear either 1., amused, 2., curious, or 3., blessed, when they see/hear us playing.
We haven't been doing this but only two occaisons now, but Maygan had the idea to open her violin case so people could put in tips if they wanted. We just started doing this last week at the Micanopy Festival, and it went very well there. Here? We made almost 70 dollars in 1 hour. Let me make it clear, just in case the idea arises that we are performing for money, we aren't. One thing I didn't care for about having the case out was how it could possibly give us that appearance.

We play because 1., we want to point people to God through our music, and 2., we just love doing it for the fun of it. We don't need money involved, to have a great time. It IS an added blessing though, and we were blown away by how much the Lord allowed us to receive that day. It will help in saving for Maygan's new violin and my new guitar among savings, tithes, and other things.

One of the most common refrains I hear from people when we're performing is how they "never see accordion-players around anymore." Apparently I am the last accordionist on earth. (not really, (derrr) but they sure make it LOOK that way) I don't even know why entirely that I even picked the accordion as another instrument to play. It's such an awkward, unusual piece, really. And 16 year old American girls don't typically play them these days. I have yet to meet one and when I do that will be a most interesting event.
But it's kind of an amusing relationship, the accordion and I.
On the one hand, it is so big and clunky and rather humorous. But on the other hand, it is different, unusual, unique. Maybe I'm somewhat crazy for picking such an instrument at my age. But that's the side which I like. I love how people walk by, a perplexed look on their faces to see a young girl playing an instrument typically embraced by elderly people, and CERTAINLY not the teen culture of today. I can't deny that I like being different.


Here be my fabulous fiddling friend and I enjoying some ice cream after about an hour of music. Boy, was that stuff good, too. Mmmm.


Well, I'll stop jabbering now. I have algebra to work on and I'm sure you're probably bored to death listening to me yack about being an accordionist and all that insanity. DO tell me what you thought of the sketch though. I don't need to repeat my thoughts on sincerity and honest critique. 

Happy Tuesday!
Blessings,