POP QUIZ! Real Neat Blog Award Nomination

real-neat-blog-awardThe coffee-drinking and language-loving Melissa Barker-Simpson has nominated this blog for the Real Neat Blog Award. I appreciate this compliment very much; to be nominated is surprising and flattering and great fun for me because I actually like taking tests, and the following requisite questions are not unlike a pop quiz! (Yes, I am rather odd.)

So, armed with a canister full of of No.2 pencils and a tall stack of yellow legal pads, here are the questions and the answers:

What is the #1 most played song on your iPod (or other listening device)?

  • I love all kinds of music and listen to everything from hip hop to 1940s swing, and classic country to opera – so it is impossible to name only one – but a song that is especially lovely is My Funny Valentine, sung by Eileen Farrell. If you think the song begins slowly, just wait – it slips into a simmering, romantic, sensual, loving ode, and then builds into a celebration!  Masterfull!

What is one of your favourite quotes?

  • What is it about reading quotes from other people that soothes or inspires? We go through our lives learning and experiencing more than enough to write our own words of wisdom, but Plato, Shakespeare and Benjamin Franklin so often express these same insights succinctly and prettily, This quote from Isak Dineson is actually one of my mother’s favorites. I share it in honor of her and Mother’s Day and because it’s a quote for all seasons of the heart –

The cure for anything is saltwater; sweat, tears or the sea.

If you were immortal for one day, what would you do?

  • Hmmm … Two possibilities come to mind, the first is based on my frustrating fear of heights. I would presumably be fearless at last, so I would crawl all over the worst bridges with a structural engineer, and we would talk about the design, the mechanics, the business of bridges and I could see and touch and learn about every detail with an expert.
  • The second idea is a bit sci-fi, but since I am immortal, who’s to say what is or isn’t possible in a 24 hour period? Therefore, I would donate every possible organ to the sickest patients time and time and time again. The thinking is that if I am immortal, then my physical body would have to be capable of repairing itself repeatedly and quickly – making fresh, new, fully operational organs in a jiffy! It would be a great way to give some of these horrible diseases and illnesses a good sock in the eye!

What’s the most recent movie/book you’ve seen/read? Tell us about it.

What have you always wanted to study (but never had the time)?

  • Although not a study, per se, I have always wanted to learn how to surf. Like on a surf board. Like in California or Hawaii or someplace gorgeous and daunting and wildly fun!
  • Academically, I have always wanted to learn a multitude of languages – from Latin to Portuguese to American Sign Language and Braille. I can limp along in French and Spanish, but not well enough to venture beyond the basics – Je m’appelle Susan. Or the always popular; No es un buen dia? {I can’t flip a question mark at the beginning of the question – oops!}

And with that, I have completed the questionnaire!


Thank you again, Melissa Barker-Simpson. I appreciate the nomination and I am excited to nominate the following talented and quite nice bloggers for the Real Neat Blog Award: Anabel’s Travel Blog, Cynthia M Voss and Sweet Tea Reads.

Your pop quiz (AKA nomination) questions are below – Have fun!

  1. When did you last feel courageous? Describe the circumstances and if/how it changed you, even if it impacted you just a little.
  2. Sweet or savoury – and why? Bonus Points for sharing your favorite recipe.
  3. When did you first begin blogging? Which early post (or posts) would you most want people to read?
  4. Create your very own word, complete with definition, and use it in a sentence.
  5. And for the sake of tradition – if you could have one super power … nope, let’s make this a generous question … if you could keep two superpowers and give one duplicate power to a friend, what would they be and who would get which powers?

If We Were Having Coffee …



If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I am trying to get as much done in one morning as I neglected to accomplish in a week, so this will be a brief conversation.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I went out of town for a couple of days, and remembered that I am really quite capable of navigating around new places successfully, and that I can comfortably enjoy a dinner out in an unfamiliar city all alone, and that by being such a night-owl, I miss a lot of freshness and beauty that morning people experience as a matter of routine.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I’m in a state of transformation right now. My life has become too heavy on the ‘oh-wells’, and too light on the ‘yippees’, so with each new day, I am moving from drab beige to contented lavender and awakening peppermint, and strengthening bergamot.

If we were having coffee, I’d finally ask about you and what you have discovered during the past week and what kind of a weekend you have planned and if you are participating in the #WeekendCoffeeShare at Part Time Monster, hosted by Diana.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I need to stop typing and head outside to take a multitude of photos for work, blog and just fun – and that I hope your weekend is as productive and/or relaxing as you hope it might be – and that it includes at least a touch of unexpected giddiness.

If We Were Having Coffee …

Blog Coffee Mega

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I have a crazy-busy weekend ahead of me, but I stayed up all night watching old black and white classic (and not so classic) movies, so I am off to a groggy start.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that from what I’ve learned through the A2Z Challenge, I have decided to do things a little differently as far as blogging. I will post at least three times a week, once on my Creatzart blog – the photography site – and twice on Discovering Home –  including one post having to do with food or restaurants, since those posts were very well received.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I am still stuck on the artwork for the children’s book I’m writing. It is such a big part of the story, I do want to create/make/find the right visuals, even though I realize that if a traditional publisher picks this up, they will choose the artist.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I am not going to get much done on the history travel series this week since I am swamped with other tasks, jobs, errands, and life. I am looking forward to a few days spent on the back roads and in the silent basements of historical societies — but not this week, sadly enough.

And … if we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I really need to dash away, but that I love this concept and will spread the word! I learned about this weekend coffee share through Melissa Barker Simpson indirectly, and through Nerd in the Brain more directly, who learned about it through Part Time Monster absolutely directly!

If you are interested in joining, look over the blogs mentioned above, then please click here!

Have a wonderful weekend!


Reflection After the Challenge

AtoZ 2015 Reflections

The Blogging A to Z Challenge has officially ended. We Bloggers have been asked to share some of our thoughts, suggestions and lessons learned with the masses, and I am happy to oblige.

As a first-time Challenge participant, I went into this hoping to figure out how to write every day at the same time. It sounds so tidy and complete. Well, unsurprisingly, that did not happen, but I did learn that I can prioritize my personal writing – up to a level just under my professional writing – and that was indeed surprising.

Another exciting benefit was being exposed to a wide variety of new and different blogs. I learned from each blog’s content as much as I learned from the organization, the presentation, the length and the feel. I connected with bloggers I never even knew existed, and whose sites I would never have had time to search out without that handy Challenge List.

And I succeeded in completing thirty days of almost daily blogging. There were lessons in that, as well. I have to admit that I love pressure, I hate to let others down and I thrive on deadlines. I discovered that I have even more ideas for future blog posts, magazine articles and books than I thought I did – and that’s an awful lot!

My only request, suggestion, observation is that it would be terrific if similar challenges could be shared on the Blogging A to Z Challenge website. I am excited about this approach to blogging – motivation through sheer terror of missing a deadline – and look forward to participating in future challenges, in particular A2Z 2016 !

In closing, I have to thank the co-hosts, the facilitators – the folks who do the work of making this Challenge such fun for the rest of us while keeping up with their own blogs, work, lives. Your efforts are deeply appreciated.

Cradle Typewriter 1

Z is for Zest

AtoZ Z2015

And so the Blogging A to Z Challenge ends … with the final letter of the alphabet. We Readers and Bloggers ought to celebrate with a little something nice. Maybe an aromatic cup of tea and some pastries?

Here is an easy and quick recipe for Zesty Lemon Filled Choux Puffs.

Blogging 2015 Zest Lemon Heavy

I would happily make these delights all day long. They can look rather impressive, but the business of making the choux (pronounced shoe, as in tennis) is easy peasy. And just between us, although it might not be ‘correct’, I sometimes add just a touch of almond, vanilla, lemon, etc. to the choux. If possible, I use the highly concentrated oils rather than the more liquid flavorings, for fear of ruining the consistency.

Not a fan of lemon filling? Not an issue – these are nice with butter, chocolate mousse (another easy recipe, but for another post), or strawberry preserves beaten with whipped cream. They even work well with savories like tuna salad or veggies. Oh my!  I might have to meander into the kitchen …

Well, enough of that! Here we go with the actual recipe and some photos just for fun.

First, make your Choux:

1/2 cup generous Water (I use a touch more than the usual 1/2 cup, but not too much!)

4 Tablespoons Butter (use the very best butter you can find, preferably unsalted)

1/2 cup Flour

2 Eggs (room temperature is best, but if in a rush, at least try to warm them in a warm towel)

Blogging 2015 Zest Choux Ingredients

Preheat the oven to 375* 

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper, or if you are not wild about parchment like I am, have at the ready unlined and ungreased cookie sheets.

In a medium saucepan, bring the water and butter to a boil. Remove from heat, then add the flour all at once. Placing the pan over moderate heat, stir like mad until the mixture comes away from the sides of the saucepan, making a ball. Remove the pan from the heat again, letting the dough cool for about five minutes. Then add the fresh eggs, one at a time, assertively stirring each one into the cooled dough until the mixture is smooth.

Using large spoons or iced tea spoons, drop equal sized dollops of dough about 2″ apart onto the cookie sheets – spoon choice will determine the size of each puff.

Blogging 2015 Zest Choux and Pan

Bake one sheet at a time for 30 minutes, or until they are puffed and golden. Blogging 2015 Zest Choux Baked

Cut open the upper third and … hey! Wait a second! Do try to stop eating them before they are all gone since you still have a lot of filling to use. Oh well, these are simple enough to make again … and again … and again!

The Lemon ZEST Filling

Blogging 2015 Zest Lemon One

I am going to share the simplest lemon filling I know with you, but as you are already aware, there are a zillion recipes for lemon curd, lemon butter, lemon everything. Play with this and make your own complicated or straightforward version. Just remember that the idea is to have a good time in the kitchen!

2  8-ounce packages of real cream cheese (the substitutes simply don’t work as nicely)

1  14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (yup, this is going to be very easy!)

1/2 cup sour cream (I use plain yogurt because we never have sour cream in the house)

1/4 cup lemon juice (I do try to squeeze fresh lemons, but it’s your recipe now, so that’s up to you)

The zest of at least one lemon (the more lemons, the zestier the outcome)

Dash of lemon oil, vanilla, coconut, etc. (not actually necessary, but an option if you’d like to experiment with flavors)

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Place all of the ingredients in a bowl or food processor – or blender, I suppose – and blend until smooth, creamy and wonderful. Spoon into the few remaining Choux Puffs. You will have more than enough filling, so it might be wise to make multiple batches of choux pastry, or use the leftovers as filling for a refrigerated cake.

If you are concerned about the degree of icky sweetness, only pour about 1/2 to 2/3 of the can of sweetened condensed milk into the bowl above, then blend and adjust for taste and consistency. You could use heavy cream, plain yogurt, and/or more cream cheese instead of the entire can.

And then it is time to serve these wonders with a dab of filling and a scattering of lemon zest on top – or drizzle them with melted chocolate, or lightly sift confectioner’s sugar on top.

Whatever you’d prefer!

Blogging 2015 Zest Lemon Heavy

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the many Readers who made it through the entire alphabet with me, and the talented Bloggers who shared their wonderful posts during this Blogging A to Z Challenge.

I’ve connected with some remarkable writers, cooks, photographers and poets, and I’ve learned a great deal about blogging along the way.

I wish all of you happy discoveries, safe culinary adventures, good lighting and successful blogging – I am looking forward to enjoying more of your work in the weeks and months to come.

Y is for Yellow Springs

AtoZ Y2015

Yellow Springs is located in Greene County, Ohio. It’s a small town bursting with events, history, activities and something new around every turn.

Grab some maps, a lot of information and a couple of post cards when you stop by the former Yellow Springs Depot, then spend at least a weekend exploring the area.

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The Glen Helen Raptor Center offers unusual opportunities to see birds of prey up close; to hear a variety of birds’ voices, and to feel the air move as an owl uses his powerful wings to fly.

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It’s a good idea to lace up some comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots when you visit the Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve. Everywhere you look, there is something beautiful – something special. Photographs simply cannot capture the peace of the place. There is an unexpected joy and a tranquil wisdom that permeates the rock walls and rushing streams.

When the day winds down, the town of Yellow Springs offers an abundance of restaurants so varied as to meet the gastronomical needs of everyone from vegans to beef aficionados.. As far as lodging, there are historic inns, chain hotels, and bed and breakfasts each waiting for your tuckered feet and sleepy head.

X is for Triple XXX Family Restaurant

AtoZ X2015

On a hill in West Lafayette, Indiana is an 85+ year old tradition – the Triple XXX Family Restaurant. With burgers actually ground from fresh sirloin onsite, to real, homemade-from-scratch potato salad, every delicious, succulent bite demands a plethora of napkins and results in the the occasional, ‘mmmm’ and ‘ooohhhh’ and plenty of  ‘Oooohhh …schoo gwood …mmmmm.’



The root beer is an integral part of the history and continued success of the place – the distinct flavor compliments everything on the menu. OK, even being a root beer fan, I might have to exclude some of the breakfast items. But it’s still one of the best bottled root beers I’ve ever tasted.