Monday, March 27, 2017

THE # 1 THING NEVER TO DO AT WALMART


The other day, I had to pick up some medication in Walmart, so I hung out for the required 30 minutes on those super hard metal chairs that everyone hates. Normally, I catch up on reading, but decided to people watch instead. One thing stood out more than anything else.

A young girl about 5 years old drove up on a shiny new red tricycle with the tags still on, alone.  She quickly got up from her seat, moving 2 bottles of Calcium over to the Flintstones Vitamin area of the shelf. She also calmly shuffled the Fish Oil over to the Vitamin C area. She got back on her "borrowed" bike and promptly left the area.  She came back for trip 2 to move the Iron over to something I've never heard of - Red Yeast Rice, and left again.  Determined to show her organizational expertise, she drove back over to move the ICaps over to the Centrum Silver area to help out all the elderly folks.  I have no clue where she went after she left each time, but I did notice that there was no adult around to hold her hand or to stop her from redecorating the vitamin section in Walmart.  


When she came back again, I politely asked where her parents were, with no response. She looked at me strangely, but did follow me over to the Customer Service Department where they made an announcement about a lost little girl.  
The kid started crying as four adult women came over to the desk, but I got the evil eye.  Uh...OK. I'm not a fan of young kids because they can't have a discussion about the Food Network, chauffeur me around or do any laundry. AND they need a ton of supervision! Please forgive me for thinking that a pervert may have grabbed your little girl at any moment while you shopped for goodness knows what.  Was I the bad guy for jumping in?  Bottom line - don't leave tiny children alone to roam the aisles of Walmart by bike, skateboard, inner tube or on foot!

SHRIMP LINGUINE PUTTANESCA
INGREDIENTS
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Pitted Kalamata Olives
2 Cloves Garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp Capers that have been rinsed
4 Cups Low-Sodium Chicken Broth
1 Cup Marinara Sauce of your choice
12 Oz. Linguine Noodles
1 Lb Medium Shrimp
8 Oz. Plum Tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 Cup Fresh Basil Leaves, torn, or use what's in a jar


Black Pepper



DIRECTIONS
1.  Heat the oil, olives, garlic and capers in a large deep skillet over medium heat until the garlic is light golden brown, about 2 minutes.  Remove from the heat, then mix in the broth and marinara sauce.

2.  Add the linguine and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring often for 10 minutes.

3.  Nestle in the shrimp in the mixture ad cook until opaque throughout - 3 to 4 minutes. Cooking it longer will make it rubbery.  Fold in the tomatoes, basil and pepper.  For more heat, go ahead and add cayenne or red pepper.

This is also a great meal without the shrimp.


Are you suffering from debilitating back pain?  Are you on the phone all the time, all day long?  The best fix for your back and to minimize bad posture is to use headphones with built in microphones instead of bending over to read all those texts.


Johnny Cash was a brilliant entertainer, and one of the few people in the world to have won 20 Grammy's. He is also the only person to have been sued by the government after an oil leak from his personal camper caused a forest fire that destroyed over 500 acres of wildlife in California.  In case you're wondering how much he was sued for, it was a whopping $1 Million Dollars!




Monday, March 20, 2017

RECIPE REVIVAL COOKBOOK

Do you remember all those delicious classic comfort foods we grew up with like Macaroni & Cheese, Fried Chicken, Pimento Cheese, Fried Pork Chops, Deviled Eggs or Succotash?  

As a Foodie, I'm always on the lookout for cookbooks from the 60's, 70's and 80's from yard sales or thrift stores.  But there is a lot of growing appeal for modern creative culinary treats these days. People are eager to try innovative fare at home as a way to save money, or to show off their cooking skills.   So the other day, I found the best of both worlds from  a book entitled Recipe Revival, published in October 2016 by the Editors of Southern Living.  The link below takes you to Amazon for varied ways to purchase.  You can also grab it from your local library.

Recipe Revival: Southern Classics Reinvented for ... - Amazon.com


What they've cleverly done is taken your mom's old school Chicken Pot Pie and amped it up for the masses.  They've even revved up that classic quiche used at old-fashioned tea parties from the 60's by adding caramelized onions and bacon.  Yay - Bacon!

Of course all the recipes are out of this world fantastic, and there is an abundance; but what I really loved were the Fresh Takes posted on the side of the page that provided some history and other unique cuisine tips.  The 367 page hardback edition includes acknowledgements, metric conversions, and a vintage recipe index. Then the stylists used all their artistic skills to show gorgeous pictures of mouthwatering favorites that will have you begging for
extra helpings. 

Recipe Revival is the perfect cookbook for the novice or gourmet chef and promises to include your beloved favorites and more. 



FRESH CORN VINAIGRETTE
Ingredients
1 Cup Fresh Corn Kernels
2/3 Cup Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice
1 Clove Garlic, Minced
2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Creole Mustard
1 Teaspoon Thyme - Fresh Chopped or from a Spice Container

Instructions
Whisk together all the ingredients, then add table salt and pepper to taste.  You already know I added some cayenne pepper for heat!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

RAYMOND BARTON - MUSIC PRODUCER & GRAMMY VOTING MEMBER


Many people are unaware that in addition to being a book nerd, I'm on fire for music, and used to sing in bands and choirs when I was younger.  My love of paperwork and a good sense of humor are how Raymond and I met in Baltimore a zillion years ago.  Many people probably have no idea how much musical talent Raymond has, but because of his many skills, he could really be just as successful as a psychologist, romance author, singer or customer service manager.  With many layers to his personality, he's well known, but not hard to know. Even better, he's super funny.  Take a moment to learn more about him, and take a listen to his latest release, If Only For Love.


1.  Many people may not know that you've been writing and producing music for over 30 years.  Is that something you dreamed about as a young child?

Raymond:  Thanks for the interview. I can’t say that I really dreamed about this career path as a young child. I just knew that I always liked music and wrote my first song when I was about 12 years old. That song was about the very complex issues that a man faces when dealing with emotions inside when someone enters his scope of vision.... Nah… I’m just kidding. That first song was called, I Love You Girl.

2.  That's pretty cool and reminds me of my first autobiography at the tender age of 13. For those people who may not know, what exactly does a music producer do?

Raymond:  A music producer does a lot I never really considered because I do it every day. Let’s see... a music producer comes to a decision as to what song or songs will be used on an album or CD.  He or she then works directly with the recording engineer to get the sounds recorded from each instrument, and ensures that the vocalist(s) deliver(s) the performance and emotion that each song calls for. Once that happens, he or she ensures the songs are "mixed' properly for the eventual release to the public. If the fans don't like it, then none of all those efforts matter. Most people really don't know what I do, so the whole thing of being recognized on the street, or in a supermarket never comes into play. That's a plus about being behind the scenes.

3. Wow!  Never knew how much was involved!  In 2015, you produced an award winning album called MacArthur Park by Tracy Hamlin.  How did you find her and what was the inspiration for this album?


Raymond: Well, Tracy is a big fan of Jimmy Webb who wrote MacArthur Park. He is a brilliant songwriter who also had major hits such as By the Time I Get to Phoenix, This Is Your Life, made famous by Norman Connors, Up Up and Away by the Fifth Dimension, Do What You Gotta Do and countless more. For those who may not know Jimmy Webb, Google him and you’ll find lots of info.

Tracy wanted to do something with a big orchestra type of sound, so MacArthur Park was an easy choice. It won accolades from DJ's around the world who absolutely loved her take on the song. I was just happy to be there to see her record the song from the beginning and to see its success.

4.  It was definitely a great piece of work. Many years ago, you wrote, produced and sang on your first album.  How long did that take?


Raymond:  When I did my first album, my intent was to get songs placed on other people's projects. I like writing songs for other people. On that album, I had written songs for Howard Hewitt after I met him on a radio gathering in Brazil, as well as Luther Vandross and a few others. During the project, I realized that I should just release it to see if I could get interest. I got radio play in Japan, and the entire experience was very interesting.

5.  I really enjoyed it and still have it on cassette. (lol) Now, here we are enjoying your new release on February 28, 2017, entitled If Only For Love. What made you get back into the studio for yourself after all this time, and are these songs personal for you?  Do you feel that your outlook on music has changed since then?

Raymond: Yes the songs on this new CD are VERY personal for me.  I did "If Only For Love" for myself because I had been listening to the radio after getting back into music to MAKE music and all I heard were " break up songs....I don't love you songs...never getting back together songs." Therefore, I began to wonder if anybody was IN love anymore. Like who is writing songs for the people, who ARE in love or who have been together for years and happy to be in love? I felt like all those songs I was hearing on the radio were about drama-filled relationships, and surely not everyone could be going through that. SO, I’m in love, and I'm very happy. I'll write a love song about romance. That's where the title of the CD came from. For anybody who is in love... these songs are for you.


6.  It's always wonderful to see and hear about love.  What would people be surprised to know about you?

Raymond: I have done numerous voice overs for commercials, and for business On Hold messages. I've also done jingles for commercial businesses in the Baltimore/Washington Area. When I have time,  I absolutely enjoy traveling.

7.  You definitely have a distinctive voice that stands out. My favorite song on your new release is So Special, but they're all really well done. I found myself dancing around the living room and getting in a good workout.  Are you a dancer?

Raymond:  No, I am definitely not a dancer. I wanted to create a new throwback kind of groove that you could dance,to without twerking.


8.  I think you really succeeded in giving us those "feel good" songs. You got to do something that many of us can only dream about in 2016 and 2017 - attending the Grammy's., and we want all the juicy details. (lol)



Raymond Wow... so yeah the Grammy's had been a lifelong dream of mine, so being involved with the organization in any way was a thrill. So when I was accepted into the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, I received the opportunity to attend the Grammy Awards in 2016 and 2017! 2 years and it has been the absolute thrill of a lifetime. It's a black tie affair so knowing what to wear was easy to decide. Being in the same room as Adele, BeyoncĂ©, Bruno Mars, Taylor Swift, John Legend, Alabama Shakes, and more - there is just no easy way to put the experience into words.  


9.  It's still a thrill knowing that all your hard work has truly paid off, and that you had the opportunity to attend such a wonderful event, and to meet so many other talented artists. Now that you've released your album, are there plans to do another one any time soon?  If so, will it be the same genre?


Raymond: I am going to do another CD later this year. I hope to feature more amazing vocalists as I did on "If Only For Love" but I would ABSOLUTELY like to work with Kia Bennett again. She is an amazing talent who loves good R&B and Soul, so musically, it's a good fit.

10.  That's fantastic news.  I'm definitely looking forward to that! Which is your fave - R&B or Pop Music?

Raymond:  I enjoy all music. However, an artist like Bruno Mars comes along and "blurs the lines" He's being played on pop music radio but what he is doing is old school R&B and Funk. To me, it just means that if the MUSIC is giving a chance on a level playing field, who knows what you might like.


11.  Like you, I'm a fan of all types of music. This CD is all about love.  What's the most romantic thing you've ever done?

Raymond:  The CD is about love because I was thinking that people weren't taking about love. So I thought I would make a CD of songs that focused on that feeling of love. One of the most romantic things that I've done was standing under a small bus stop with my woman in a light rain and she was snuggled up next to me. It was just one of the moments that I knew it didn't matter to her, or to me who was around. I was holding her close to let her know that she was all that mattered.


12.  Ah...that sounds like something that should be in one of romance novels I enjoy so much. As a producer, writer and singer, how do you feel about traveling and possibly living out of a suitcase?

Raymond: . You know... I REALLY enjoy being in the recording studio but most of the time when I write music, I am never near an instrument. I write in my music in my head. Horns, strings, lyrics, chord progressions, arrangements, vocal riffs. So. as long as I am in my right mind... I take the music with me.


13.  Cool. What's the most difficult thing to do in the music industry?


Raymond:  The most difficult thing in the music industry is getting your music played and heard by a lot of people. Musicians are so very critical of each other. Obviously we all want success but I have NO problem sharing secrets or tips that hopefully will help someone. It's called "mentoring" And I SO want to be able to help others. It's like grandma had an excellent recipe that she never shared and she took it to the grave with her. Why? Maybe she wanted all the glory for herself or for people to come to her for whatever she made. To me... I don't care. If God inspired me, that HE gets the glory. Not me.

14. I agree.  It's all about helping others no matter what we're doing.  Have you ever had a bad review, and if so, how did you handle it?


Raymond: I mean everybody is not going to like everything you do no matter what. But l absolutely trust my gut. I don't play my music for anybody until it gets released. People sometimes don't like people with confidence in themselves in that way. I get it. But that is not my issue. I trust me completely. I am willing to accept that if whatever I do fails, it's because I didn't get it right. I can live with that. But if I listen to other people and NOT trust my gut....I may want to blame them. But I wont. I will only blame myself for not trusting myself. Good or bad... I did it. 

15.  Confidence is key for sure, and that's a great way to look at it. What was it like working with Kia Bennett and how did you meet?  Is it difficult to work with a partner or to do duets?


Raymond:  I met Kia at a Grammy event. One of the most BESTEST  [ if that is a word] things was the networking piece associated with the Grammys.  Kia is a wonderful singer, songwriter and performer. She didn't need me at all. She was doing her thing musically before she met me. We were introduced by our mutual friend Tracy Hamlin and Kia graciously agreed to be on my project. My project is that much better because of it. These days... I don't want to burst anyone's bubble but, rarely are duets done like they used to be. One part could be recorded in a basement studio in Iowa and the other part is recorded in a apartment in Germany. But with technology the way that it is, you can merge those voices together to make great music. 

16.   That sounds super interesting!  As women, we feel we pay attention to romance.  Your music really focuses on true love. Are men more romantic than we think?

Raymond: I think some boys are given the "rap" they deserve. But  "when a MAN loves a woman".... that's a whole 'nother thing. Ask any woman who has been loved by a man. Women deserved to be romanced. Young females don't consider that important. The best thing for anyone to do in a relationship is continue to "date" that person. If you have been together for 40 years... date your wife. Date your husband. Surprise them. And if a man is checking out this interview.... dude.... if your woman spends the day getting her hair done or getting herself looking nice... you better notice that she has. She might be your girlfriend or your baby mama or your wife... but she will NEVER forget that she's a woman.

17.  How wonderfully romantic, and what you say gives us a great inside look at how real men feel. What's in your CD Player these days?

Raymond:  To be honest, I listen to Heart and Soul Radio on Sirius XM a WHOLE lot. I like that they play an actual variety of music and not just the same 5 songs over and over. 

18.  You and I were both fans  of the brilliant performer, Prince.  Would you say his music inspired you at all?  Who else have you admired?

Raymond:  Prince was one of the most prolific songwriters of our time. Just an amazing songwriter. I have a thing for songwriters not because of the ease or difficulty in writing songs. Usually there is something that connects them with what they have written. One person who I respect as a songwriter completely is Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees. That dude.... wow. Amazing!

19.  I really enjoyed the Bee Gees music on Staying Alive with John Travolta. You've been born and raised in Baltimore.  Was there ever a time you considered moving to another city?

Raymond:  I was born in Baltimore, Maryland. I lived in Florida for a while but decided that Baltimore was home. So I came back home.

20.  It's been a while since I've been back to Baltimore. What's a pet peeve?

Raymond:  Definitely rudeness.  There is never an excuse for rudeness.

21.  I totally agree.  Ain't no need for that! (lol) Cadillac or Prius?



Raymond:  Neither really.  Well.maybe a Prius.

22.  I definitely have to go with the Caddy. What's the last good movie you watched?

Raymond:   The last good movie I watched was Hidden Figures and Moana, which were both very good.  I find that they both represented strong women.  How good is that?

23.  I haven't seen either, but keep hearing great things.  Where can we find you for appearances, or to purchase your music?

Raymond:  You can find the music on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Tidal and CDBaby, or feel free to visit me on Facebook @  https://www.facebook.com/raymond.barton.129, or my music page.

Thanks very much for the interview. Come take a listen to my new CD... IF Only For Love featuring the single "A Beautiful Forever" featuring Kia Bennett. Give a listen over at:  SOULTRACKS.COM









Thursday, March 9, 2017

TOP TIPS ON DEALS THURSDAY

One of my hobbies for the past 20 years has been to find freebies and deals.  Initially, I worked way too hard, only to be rewarded with spam and a ton of junk mail.  Now I know better.

If you're hooked on finding the best deals in the least amount of time, these are some great tips.

FREEBIES
1.  Ask for a deal.  I know that sounds ridiculous, but there's a 50/50 chance you'll get a positive response if you gather your courage and try.


2.  Ask for senior citizen, student or military discounts wherever you go.  Some stores will have signs on the window, but more often than not, they wait for you to ask.


3.  If you don't mind doing product reviews, Pinchme is great to use.  They'll mail you things, but if you don't stay on top of things, you won't get notices about new offers.  Mary from Dark Thoughts
recommends this, as well as a few others on her blog.


4. Reddit is known for being very controversial on many topics, but they are still the #1 place to visit for freebies..  Why is it so good? There are literally thousands of people in the group, then there are even more subgroups.  Even better, those freebies are usually happening in real time. Reddit.com (R/EFreebies+Freebies)

5.  I don't know where you live, but Sunday newspapers are super expensive these days.  But I don't pay a dime!  If you wait until Tuesday or Wednesday, many stores have leftover papers that they'll cheerfully give away for FREE.  Yay!


FreebieBlogger

6.  Say hello to Wendi over at www.TheFreebieBlogger.com and get guaranteed freebies each day.



7. Wendy is the brain behind  www.SweetiesSweeps.com, and she's been winning since 1993!  Not only can you find lots of sweepstakes at this site, but you can also nab plenty of freebies.


8.  www.Heyitsfree.net - not only will you get the scoop on cool freebies, but you're guaranteed to get a laugh from Goob.  His writing style is definitely over the top and funny.


9.  Do you think you're really good at couponing?  You haven't seen anything until you've visited http://thekrazycouponlady.com/. Actually, it's more than one krazy lady.  Heather and Joanie are not only glowingly gorgeous, but they're pretty famous, too.  If you take the time to read their tips, all you need to do is show up at the stores they recommend and collect those awesome deals.


10.  Want to find out about unusual jobs, ways to make money online, or other really neat news you can use and just don't have the time or energy?  Check out the brainchild of Kyle Taylor from ThePennyHoarder.com

HEALTHY TIPS
Do you want to lose some weight without all the headache of drastically changing your diet?  Lift weights 2-3 times per week. Not only will your body change, but lifting weights will help strengthen bones, as well.  You can do this with 2-10 pound weights!

Did you know you can burn calories while sleeping?  According to The Journal of Pineal Research, take 1mg of Melatonin about a half hour before going to bed at night, and the good brown fat in your body will rev up to burn about 36% of calories overnight!  Say what?


COOKING
Lots of people use their slow cooker to save time, but using parchment paper to cook steak or roasts in the oven will give you succulent and tender meals.  Most people use Parchment to cook fish or baked goods, but it works just as well for other foods.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

HAS A BLOGGER EVER MADE YOU ANGRY?

The first time it happened, I sort of ignored it as a fluke. It's never happened to me thank goodness, but lately, it seems as if there are more fights than usual among the blogging societies.  Many of the disagreements are politically or racially motivated, but quite a few are happening in the entertainment, beauty or book world.


There are literally millions of blogs in the world.  Some are small, others are quite well known, and a few make tons of money.


So if you visit plenty of blogs, at some point, you're going to end up seeing a lot of the same people. Knowing that, I'm very surprised that one blogger would publicly bash another.  This includes complaining about how a blogger writes a review, how she's putting on eyeliner incorrectly, is a horrible person because of her political views, or that he or she is fat and needs to lose weight. Someone is going to see that post that you know, or even worse, you may see it yourself! This causes tears of hurt, or a lot of back and forth cursing throughout a blog between people. As I scroll through those posts, I end up feeling embarrassed and sad.  I don't get it.

As bloggers, we love being stalked because of what we write about. But while flaming wars may be interesting to some, stalking someone on their blog for the purpose of verbal attacks, or using your own blog to bash another blog just seems mean-spirited to me. We may not always agree with a point of view, but kindness is key.