Monday, November 3, 2014

Moving to Wordpress

I have moved my site: www.julesmpg.com is now the host of Just Jules blog. Please find me over there.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Change isn't swift and other random musings

Well, it's obvious my grand makeover is stalled. I am a tech idiot, that thought this was simple but apparently not. So you're reading this on my old non-revamped site.  Cést la vie....I will figure it out.

The issue is I bought this domain through Google years ago but it's really through GoDaddy. I bought hosting through GoDaddy, simple right? WRONG. I pointed my domain at the ip address GoDaddy suggested and my site looks the same. My head is literally spinning from allergies and sinuses, so brain fog is making it worse.

So why did I decide to do this during NaBloPoMo 14? because I am a glutton for self induced punishment. I just am tired of dealing with the Blogger platform which isn't user friendly anymore and my site is lacking...a lot.

Speaking of NaBloPoMo +Lizz Porter  mentioned on Twitter that NaBloPoMo may only be M-F? *cue screeching record* WHAT? 7 years of writing everyday and they are changing it to M-F? What's the challenge in that? This may just be speculation, still waiting for Blogher to answer us on Twitter. You mean I wrote two more blogs a week for nothing?

Allergies are bogging me down right now, affecting my inner ear and making me dizzy. I am all hopped up on allergy medicine. So I will cut this rant short. Is it me or is this NaBloPoMo starting off rough?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

NaBloPoMo 2014: Time to Face the Change

Tomorrow is time change but that's not the change I am talking about. This month begins the ninth year of Just Jules as well as my 7th year of NaBloPoMo. Each year, my thought process goes like this, ''Why do I do this blog challenge? There's no point, its really just for me to say I did it...again. I am not going to do it again.'' and then like a moth to the flame........here I am writing a blog.

So it begins, my 7th year of throwing my hat in the  NaBloPoMo ring. Let's see how this goes writing a blog everyday. My friend Melanie gave me a journal for my one year anniversary at work this week and it has some great prompts. Definitely will be using some of those this month.

Now for the ch ch changes ( singing that song in my head)

After years of pondering it and mulling over the switch, this will be my last day ( hopefully...barring me playing computer geek gone awry) on Blogger. Last year, I was editing my blog to add something and messed up my code. This has prevented my readers from reading a large portion of my archives. Archives that hold our story as a family, stories that help others facing trials. I asked on the Google help site for help and it fell on deaf ears.

So I migrated my site to Wordpress, created a cute theme and re-directed my domain to that site....or so I thought. Apparently, I really did a doozy redirecting my domain. So right now you can still see Just Jules in its former glory. Hopefully tomorrow you will see it in its new fashion....I hope and pray. I backed up my site in two places, so I have my blogs but this change was scary enough before I decided to play computer tech.

''It's so easy" I thought to myself and the hosting site made it seem. I have done this for others before...right? WRONG.

So the first day of NaBloPoMo starts with a bang...let's see how this goes.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Product Review: Younique Mascara

My friend Christy has been posting all over Facebook for the last several months about this ''wonder'' mascara. I was curious about this mascara that she was raving about and sharing videos of on her timeline.

Truth be told, I am not a big makeup user or wearer. My nickname isn't Messy Moose for nothing, I am not a makeup wonder more like a makeup nightmare. I have little to no eyelashes not even an eyelash curler can help me. For the last couple of years, I have been using ''They're Real'' by Benefit for mascara. I have been pretty happy with it until I saw this product online. Now some are into using false eyelashes, for me I would end up with something that could rival  an episode ''I Love Lucy''

A few weeks ago, Christy sent me a message on Facebook asking if I would write a blog for her and review the product. I jumped at the chance!! I could finally try this mascara for myself and see what its all about. Christy's mom Janeen is one of my special friends, our family's connected in so many ways and part of a circle of amazing women.

Funny enough, Christy's mom and I met through our mutual love of the Bachelor during Travis Stork, M.D.'s season. Yesterday on his show the Doctor's they did a review of the product: http://www.thedoctorstv.com/videos/magic-mascara



Needless to say, I love Christy's family so much that I would do anything for them, including sharing my Messy makeup ways in a product review.....the product is amazing, the operator not so much.

Christy sent me: Mood Struck Minerals Pigment Powder in Sexy  and Moodstruck 3D Fiber Lashes



Admittedly, I was hesitant about the product. I worried how would I get it off? The mascara washes off with warm water and facial cleanser. So that fear was allievated before I even put it on.

Now the first thing I did is watch a video sent by Christy to learn how to apply the product

*I am a real person with real flaws to my skin. I just decided to put myself out there flaws and all with the product standing for itself*

You can click on any product name in this review and be taken to Christy's webpage to buy the product

Before Eye Pigment Sexy only:



Step one: Use your regular mascara to create a base layer

After Step One:

Step Two: Apply Moodstruck Transplanting Gel  to lashes



Step Two Results: 



Step Three Result: 

Messy but amazing still! Remember I am non professional messy makeup girl. 

Final result after adding another layer:


I love this product. Even for a messy girl like me ( believe me, I am constantly having to re-do my under eye because I get it all over myself) it is easy to use and the end result is better than any mascara I have ever used. I love this amazing 3D mascara.


Are you ready to try the product yourself? Maybe make a better review than mine? I would love to see you try it yourself. So much better than regular mascara and false lashes. You can buy the product here in the special party for Just Jules readers

Christy's Webpage: www.lovelaughterlashes.com

They have a 14 day Love It Guarantee on their products. Even better! 



*disclaimer* This was not a paid review but Christy did provide the product for me to use and have. So thank you to Christy for the fun gift.





Happy Birthday Friend Series: Happy Birthday ''Hippie'' Melanie

As you all may know, my children have a penchant for giving my friends nicknames. Two of my friends have ''crazy'' in front of their names. My kids have taken to calling my newest sister of the heart ''hippie'' Melanie. I better take this story back to where it begins, Twitter of course....

When I was moving to Knoxville, I knew my friends Lee,Flavia and the Franklin/Burnett family. By way of one of the NKOTB fans on Twitter Lori, I was introduced to Abbie but she quickly informed me she lived on the other side of Tennessee. In one tweet she mentioned Melani and Sheree telling me they lived in Knoxville too. We quickly introduced and they shared some things about the area that I was moving to. We made plans to have lunch soon after I moved to town.

We had lunch discussing our mutual love of NKOTB, we were immediately friends from the get go. We would talk on Twitter and met for lunch a few times. One day last fall, while meeting for lunch we were discussing how we had an insurance snafu with Marty and how my schedule wasn't working out for my family. They told me that I should come apply at their employer, it would be a good fit for me and my schedule. I had heard all about the benefits of their job but didn't even know what they did! Two weeks later, I knew it was the perfect fit for me and a great career move.

Melani was there for me from day one, meeting me for lunch on my breaks and encouraging me along the way. For the past year in her corner office, we have had some great times, we have cried together, laughed together, worried together, talked about our dogs and talked about a lot of NKOTB. I think the people who work near her office wonder what we do in there?

Melani has helped me out this past year in so many ways. She has rescued me when my car broke down ( last week she drove me to work almost all week). Helped take Conner to Explorers when Marty and I were working.

Last summer when I went to a New Kids concert all by myself, Melani made sure to come check on me at every break. She and Sheree didn't want me to be alone at the show, they made sure I had company.

Melani is more than a friend, she is family to us in Tennessee. ( Sheree too)

Sometimes friendship is effortless and easy, you just click and that's the end of that. The best thing is that this summer she was able to meet some of my other SOH's in Vegas. I love that she met Lindsey, Gena and Andrea people from my life in California. How cool is that?

She and Sheree hung out with Lindsey one night in Vegas which was amazing. I love that my friends got to spend time together. Now they're friends too.



Melani has shown me selfless friendship this past year. She is a giving and loving person, I only hope to be half the friend she is to me in return. She has helped me learn the kind of friend I want to be and see selflessness in action. She has given me far more than I have given in return. Truly a blessing to our entire family.

Sometimes you move and you wonder why? I know why I ended up in Tennessee, I know why I am at the job I am at and I know my life wouldn't be the same without Melani. I thank God for her each and every day.

Happy birthday Melani, praying for a wonderful year filled with nothing but happiness. Maybe we will get to live our dream of seeing NKOTB together this year.


Friday, October 3, 2014

Book Review: Watch Out Hollywood, More Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child

Today I am back with author Maria Lennon discussing her new book ''Watch Out Hollywood, More Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child'' the follow up to her best selling ''Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child''



In the second book ( link here with title) Charlie tells a ''white lie'' that hurts her friend Marta. Charlie is torn between her own desires and wanting what is best for Marta. Hollywood dreams for Charlie and Olympic dreams for Marta are the center story line in this book.

Jules: Maria, it is so good to have you back. I cannot tell you how honored I was that you remembered our interview from last year and wanted to come back. I loved the first book so I was thrilled to hear there was a follow-up. Charlie is back in all of her tween glory learning some tough life lessons. How has life changed since the last time we spoke? What's new?

Maria: Hi Jules, I’m so happy to be back. You are one of my all-time favorite bloggers. You totally got Charlie and shared my weird fascination with 70’s Olympic Gymnasts, which is pretty random. The big bummer of the year was I broke my wrist on the way to volunteering in my son’s kindergarten class and had surgery so that meant making sandwiches for four kids with one hand. That was a major bummer. Then I met a woman in physical therapy who broke both wrists at the same time and I felt kind of lucky.



Jules: Growing up what were your favorite books? This book reminds me a lot of Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. I see a lot of Harriet in Charlie. She is off beat, has her own style and thought processes different than most girls her age. Harriet was one of my favorite heroines in my youth.  

Maria: Again you nailed it—Harriet the Spy was a huge inspiration. I loved, loved, loved watching her get mad, make mistakes, get it wrong and then discover her own path. I try to do that with Charlie—show how mistakes become opportunities for growth.



Jules: Okay Maria.....seriously....you're killing me with the Romanian gymnast stuff.  I spent from 1984 to 1988 pretending I was Nadia Comenanci or Teadora Ungreano daily with my friend Christena. Then I had a Romanian best friend in high school. My friend Flavia ( who is Romanian) tells me that I am Romanian by osmosis. Where did you get this Romanian story line?

Maria:
It’s just one of those moments in time that is burned in my memory. My father calling me into his room and telling me I had to see this gymnast who was unlike anything he’d ever seen before. So we all gathered to watch the tiny, determined little Nadia on the beam, the floor, the rings doing things that looked impossibly perfect. The only other time that happened was when he said the same thing about a little kid by the name of Michael Jackson.

Jules: Speaking of my friend Christena, she was my partner in crime. I am going to send her this book because it is SO us. Alternative dressing girls who told white lies all the time. We both just wanted to be liked and be cool sometimes to our own detriment. Would you agree white lies are rampant in junior high? Did you ever tell a white lie to be liked? Charlie just wants to be liked but she also wants to do the right thing.

Maria:
See, Jules, here’s the thing: White lies are the fabric of life.  Most adults tell them all the time about everything. Someone says: Do I look fat in this? No, of course you don’t. Was the meal good? Wonderful. And kids pick up on this faster than a sponge picks up bacteria. Seriously. And then we spend a lot of time covering our tracks. This is what Charlie does. She tells a lie she doesn’t think is a big deal, she convinces herself it’s not a big deal and when she learns that it is, well, she goes nuts trying to make it go away.
I’m sure I lied when I was a kid, what kid doesn’t? But I was always horrible at it. Got caught before the lie left my mouth. I’d rather rip the Band-Aid off fast by telling the ugly truth then slowly with the white lie. Plus it’s way to hard to remember the lie.

Jules: I love these books because you heavily feature the Laurel Canyon area where you live. I just think it is awesome to see a young girl growing up in So.Cal in writing. Everyone knows ''someone'' on television and wants to be in the industry growing up. I had a few friends growing up that had headshots and were always going to auditions. Does this come from your own youth or from experiences with your daughters?

Maria: Thank you. What I love about Laurel Canyon is that it is very old school LA—you’ve got the rockers, the hippies, the actors but they’re not the flashy actors like Ton Cruise. People like Joachim Phoenix live up here. Trent Reznor, and James Gandolfini had a house here. He used to walk his dog in his boxer shorts. Most of the people here are into their art and not their fame. Their houses are falling apart like the rest of ours, their kids go to the local public school and they do their best to maintain their privacy and be a part of the community. Until pretty recently flashy cars, fake boobs and lips weren’t to be seen. But things are changing. Developers are coming. I’m a third generation LA girl so I stay clear of Hollywood J But a lot of kids go out on auditions, there are casting calls all the time at the local public school (Happy Canyon) and most of the middle and high schools offer cinematic arts. We have a lot of friends who are actors and my children see how hard it is on the soul to be rejected so consistently. They have no interest in perusing it.


Jules: I noticed the ending was a bit of a cliffhanger? Can we expect more from Charlie and Marta? 

Maria: Oh yeah and the canyon and Bobby….


Jules: Have you ever thought about writing a book from Marta's point of view? I would be just as interested to see a more human side to Marta.

Maria: Yes! Yes! Yes! I love Marta and in this book I love the way she deals with being manipulated, with being hurt and ditched. I’d like her to go to the Olympics in Beijing and free some political prisoners like I Wei- Wei. She’s so funny and of course has zero tact. Not that Charlie has much tact either.

Jules: I cannot thank you enough for coming back to chat with me and for the lovely inscription in the book.  I can't wait to see what you come up with next. Thanks for speaking with me today, keep me posted on the future adventures of Charlie Cooper.


Maria: Thank you for having me and loving the characters and all that you do for kids and books!

You can buy the book on:





About Maria Lennon:



Maria T. Lennon is a graduate of the London School of Economics, 
a novelist, and an established screenwriter. She has lived in New York, 
Genova, Paris, and London and currently resides with her family in Los 
Angeles, California. You can visit her online at www.mariatlennon.com



*disclaimer: This isn't a paid review, I just really like Maria and she likes me enough to send me a copy of her book. She didn't ask me to review the book, she just wanted me to have a copy.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

MTTMB Series: The House That Built Me

The Music that Takes Me Back Series started as a way to work through my PTSD surrounding my birthday. This year, I found myself not needing to write as many of these and actually finally at peace about my birthday. For the first time since 9/11/01, I looked forward to my birthday once again.

Today is the day, I choose to affirm life, embrace life and celebrate life. As a person who lives to serve others, this is the day that my tank gets filled back up with love from others. Spurs me on to give what I receive.

The last blog in the series has been brewing for awhile but haven't had time to post it.

The House that Built Me
By Miranda Lambert




Today is the day, I wish that I could walk in this door, call out to Grandma and Gramps, walk around the corner to see them sitting at their little table in the kitchen. Then we could move to the big table so more people could come sit and chat.


A house built around love, friends and family. A tiny 3 bedroom track home that had one bathroom shared at times by over twenty people! A house that raised five children, fourteen grandchildren and three great grandchildren before it was sold.



A house that on Friday nights ten little girls laid on the floor watching TGIF eating Little Ceasar's pizza, falling asleep on pallets made of afghans while listening to the ticking of the Regulator clock. Waking up on Saturday morning, where Grandma would let us walk to the store to buy breakfast and we could buy junk, which she indulged us in. 






A house that held wedding parties, anniversary parties, bridal showers, baby showers,holidays and countless birthday parties all around a large oval table in the dining room. '' Around the table memories are made'' is a sign hanging in my house. It is so I can remember all the memories made around this table.









A house with a big pool in the backyard where little girls and boys played Mc Donald's drive thru in the spa. Where friends came and gathered around the patio while we opened birthday presents at summer birthday parties.

A bed were all the babies took naps surrounded by pillows in Grandma's room or where we went to lay with her as she watched tv in the afternoons. A bed that I now sleep in every night.

Two large custom built picnic tables that seated
the entire family during summer dinners, Thanksgivings and for parents to sit and watch the kids in the pool. It was a house teeming with life,family and love. Friends were always welcome, just walk in the door and say hello.







A house that we said goodbye to Grandma and Grandpa eight weeks apart and later that year said goodbye to the house itself. Can an inanimate object be grieved, absolutely it can. We all drive by and wish we could go in and sit for a spell. The House that Built Me








A block down, a house with the same layout, that raised a small family of three kids. The house I stayed in Monday thru Friday. Where I ate breakfast at a small table in the kitchen in naugahyde bucket chairs. Where I slept curled up in my Gramie's back after my Kankad died, running my feet across cool sheets. The house I spent sick days from school in and learned to roller skate in the front driveway. A sidewalk I rode my bike up and down endlessly. A house that I can still call home, that I can still walk into and see my little brass soldier and ballerina sitting in the window above the sink.

A house that saw much grief and sadness, death and turmoil. A house where on the front porch one of the worst moments of my life happened.




A house with a beautiful, prize rose garden lined the front walk overflowing in the summer months. The back yard with its large orange tree with oranges falling to the ground. The first address and phone number I knew by heart.


The home I still can go to and walk into the past. Another house that built me.

If you come to stay with us, you will experience the effects of those homes. How I keep house, How I host guests, the welcoming nature of opening your doors to friends.

 Thankful for the homes the built me.


The Book that Changed Me

This is an old blog, I didn't realize at the time but John Ritter would be the one to help me heal from my PTSD of a 9/11 birthday:

On my weekly trip to the library with E this week, I spotted a book on the " Just In" section and was immediately drawn to it.

With Love And Laughter, John Ritter by Amy YasBeck


A very small book written by his widow Amy YasBeck and when I say written, I mean written. She did this without the help of a ghost writer which is common practice with celebrity's writing books. I am currently reading The Hunger Games and really shouldn't have picked this up. Alas, I did and spent the next four hours glued to the book and finished it within 24 hours.

As many people my age did, I grew up watching John Ritter play Jack Tripper on Three's Company and to boot his father was a singing cowboy. As you know, my Dad and Grandpa love singing cowboys so I remember hearing a lot about this family growing up.

Amy weaves a beautiful picture of love and a great man. She shows the human side of celebrity that many don't often see. She shares the love of a father and husband who really worked hard to be "present" with his family. She shares just enough to leave you wanting more. It's not the well polished work of a professional writer but a labor of love instead. If you expect perfection this book isn't for you, skip it. If you love a great biography/love story then by all means read this book.

One of the reasons I highly identify with this story is the date September 11th is a very common thread or as John Ritter would say, "The Golden Thread of Humanity".

My birthday is September 11th and for many years since that fateful day in 2001, I have struggled to come to terms with celebrating in light of the tragedy. As the years have passed it has grown easier, yet the feeling remains. The Ritter's daughter Stella also shares my birthday, it was her 3rd birthday the day of the attacks. I will share a excerpt that will stay with me this year on my birthday. John Ritter himself said it best on Page 177 of With Love And Laughter;

"I asked him how we could do this. How Could we say "Happy Birthday" when we knew this day would always be the anniversary of the day this evil thing happened? Without hesitating, he said " Stella is proof that love still exists in the world, that somehow, we go on."

Two years later, John Ritter would die on the very same date. I remember working at the hospital on the night shift and hearing the news of his death. I was struggling to make it through my birthday without crying and that ended when I heard of his sudden death on his daughter's 5th birthday.

What a powerful statement and really great thing to think about. So this year on my birthday, which is special anyways, that's what I will be thinking.

The other part of the book that struck a cord with me was Amy's account of her grief. I really identified with parts of her grief and realized, some of the time Marty was sick was spent grieving our life before renal failure. Amy's thoughts on pages 202 and 203 respectively really hit me and are the best description of my viewpoint today.

" I would have pangs of disgust for myself-embarrassment,really- when I would flash back to a moment of frustration or sadness prior to John's death. I started to really beat myself up about time wasted or energy spent over petty disappointments and everyday aggravations." pg 202

"I would struggle to remember what made me sad before John died, and it would pale in comparison to my new circumstances but would excerbate my grief to know I had wasted time. I would think, This is what passed for a problem in those days? You know the good old days- a week ago, a day ago, a hour ago- back when I wasn't a widow."

Of course, I am not a widow but I did grieve our former life. Lucky for me, I get a second chance and now know that little things don't really matter and not to sweat the small stuff in life. Remember when life was simple and if it is simple, enjoy every waking moment.

I cannot recommend this book enough and in fact here is a link to Amazon to buy yourself a copy; With Love and Laughter, John Ritter By Amy YasBeck

I'm not getting paid to do this review, I just simply loved the book that much and wanted to share the nuggets of information that touched my heart.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Princess and I

About a year ago, I made a edit to my code on the blog and messed up my archives. I can't link you to this old post, so I will borrow some of the text to mark the date. This is from an original blog titled ''The Queen'' my review of the movie starring Helen Mirren based on the death of Princess Diana. Everyone knows of my obsession, if you don't then you really don't know me but I will tell you a bit of my story in this piece. Where was I when Princess Diana died:

It all started when I was five and my older sister got me up at 3 am to watch the wedding of Charles and Di. All little girls dream of being a princess and watching that wedding with all of the flowers,silk,tulle and diamonds I was enthralled. A real life fairy-tale and I never read another fairy-tale again. I would beg my parents to buy me Princess Di books and magazines. At one point, I had every book written on Princess Diana. For a period of two years, I would cut out the picture of the Princess Di bride doll every time my Gramie got a new Good Housekeeping or Enquirer. I knew every member of the Royal family before I knew all the presidents or states.

 I got a cabbage patch and a new book on Princess Di the same Christmas in 1984 and which one do you think I still have? My favorite birthday present of all time? When I was nine I was informed I was getting something big , bigger than a breadbox and smaller than a horse. My two grandmothers got together and bought me the Princess Di Bride Doll by the Danbury mint. I was shocked and amazed as I pulled her out of her box , smelled the lace and tulle and saw the "real'' cubic zirconia tiara! I put her back in the box and up in the closet awaiting a special case for her. She is so big she doesn't fit a standard doll case plus she has a 5 foot train and veil that make her even bigger. I would take her down and look at her every once in awhile but in the box she remained and eventually moved to my Gramie's for safe keeping.

Fast forward to 1997.. I am married and pregnant with my first child and the Princess Diana fairytale is long gone. I am adult and have seen my fantasy of Diana collapse into reality. The Sotheby's auction was that summer and I was hoping to get the auction book which was autographed. Marty's dad had passed away and I inherited his Grandma's china cabinet. So we drove over to Gram's to bring the doll home and display her for the first time. I go into the closet and drag out the black trash bag containing the box. I decide to take a peak and check her out and Marty was laughing at me.

 My Gram comes into the room and says "You better come see the news on the television. It's Diana she has been in an accident" all of the sudden fantasy and reality collided. It was real she was in Paris and there has been a wreck. I grabbed the doll went home to watch the events unfold.

I had a answering machine full of messages as I get home with people calling to tell me the news. My dad called to ask me if I had heard the news? As we were talking and he says " did you just see that?" and I said "no" and he says "She is gone".  My Dad delivered the news to me, my childhood idol was gone.

 I am a hysterical mess over someone I didn't know. I guess for me it was the same as it was for many when Elvis died or Kennedy died. I had people calling me for days offering their condolences and people at work doing the same. I wanted to go to LA to the embassy to sign the condolence book but Marty couldn't go and I was too pregnant to go alone. So my friend/co-worker Catt went with me to LA to sign the book a truly kind gesture. Days later,I once again got up at 3 am to watch the funeral and this time cried so hard from grief and sadness mixed with anger.

It's been 17 years ago today, I miss her, wonder what she would have become? People still give me Princess Diana books, when the royal wedding came along I received gifts from around the world. Princess Di still lives in my closet. She made a brief appearance in decor for William's wedding. Really can't wait for Harry to get married, I have all kinds of fun things to put up.In fact, I saw my paper cups my friend Jan gave me and thought with a sigh, ''Can't wait until Harry gets married.'' I plan on dragging my friend Andrea to London for that, we should have gone last time!

 Time has passed by so quickly just taking a moment to stop and remember....




Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Product Review: Kiss Me Organics Green Tea Matcha

As a young girl, I would beg my parents to take me to Benihana's restaurant for dinner. Sure the tepanyaki cooked in front of you is fun as a kid or adult. My mind was on other things, my sole purpose was to get to dessert and green tea ice cream. I loved green tea ice cream and eating there was the only time I got that dessert.

A few years ago, my cousin Rissa told me Starbucks made a green tea latte. I had no clue, since I am not a frequenter of Starbucks. So I started drinking those on occasion to get my green tea fix. Then Haagen Daas came out with green tea ice cream as a special flavor. Of course, none of these things are healthy or good for you, definitely not something you want to buy all the time.

When Kiss Me Organics approached me to review their product, I jumped at the chance. I love green tea,baking and was curious to try their product. Organic matcha has a natural metabolism booster, anti -oxidants, UV protection which helps promote skin health. How much better can your green tea fix get?

I ordered the Matcha Powder their exclusive retailer and received my package at light speed. The first thing we set out to make was our own green tea latte with the matcha


The recipe is included in the recipe book that comes with your purchase.  Our next adventure was making green tea cupcakes with green tea frosting.




The frosting was the best part and cupcakes were super moist. They were a green tea lovers dream dessert next to green tea ice cream.

Definitely worth the price, the powder goes a long way and can be used in multiple recipes. Highly recommend Organic Matcha Powder

*disclaimer* this was not a paid review but I did recieve the product for free in order to write the review.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

MTTB Series: That Goody Two Shoes, Sandra Dee

It's time for another edition of the ''Music that Takes Me Back Series'' which somehow inexplicably became "'MTTB'' somewhere along the line....who knows? Not me.

One of my favorite 80's songs is ''Goody Two Shoes'' by Adam and the Ants. It's always a song that has been a theme song of mine. I admit it...I am a goody two shoes. This song also reminds me of my friend Valerie, she loves Adam and is a huge fan.





Once I asked a friend about high school parties and why I never knew about them, she told me, ''Julie we all knew you were a goody two shoes and didn't do that stuff''

I've been called ''naive'', a ''Pollyanna'' and a goody two shoes for years. I don't consider myself those things but I guess that I am.  I guess that you could say I truly am a Gidget, Sandra Dee, Tammy with an edge






I really did try smoking in a Denny's on a bet with friends once and I ended up getting sick and crying while choking in front of my friends.

I just am a rule follower, who likes to be fully in control of my faculties at all times. Growing up with a sister who was out of control, I just preferred to be overly well behaved because I wanted to be nothing like her.

Guess that does make me a goody, two shoes, Sandra Dee ( who was an alcholic in real life that struggled with addiction, go figure) who is fine that label.

Love these songs, they always take me back to my youth.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Book that Changed Me

On my weekly trip to the library with E this week, I spotted a book on the " Just In" section and was immediately drawn to it.

With Love And Laughter, John Ritter by Amy YasBeck


A very small book written by his widow Amy YasBeck and when I say written, I mean written. She did this without the help of a ghost writer which is common practice with celebrity's writing books. I am currently reading The Hunger Games and really shouldn't have picked this up. Alas, I did and spent the next four hours glued to the book and finished it within 24 hours.

As many people my age did, I grew up watching John Ritter play Jack Tripper on Three's Company and to boot his father was a singing cowboy. As you know, my Dad and Grandpa love singing cowboys so I remember hearing a lot about this family growing up.

Amy weaves a beautiful picture of love and a great man. She shows the human side of celebrity that many don't often see. She shares the love of a father and husband who really worked hard to be "present" with his family. She shares just enough to leave you wanting more. It's not the well polished work of a professional writer but a labor of love instead. If you expect perfection this book isn't for you, skip it. If you love a great biography/love story then by all means read this book.

One of the reasons I highly identify with this story is the date September 11th is a very common thread or as John Ritter would say, "The Golden Thread of Humanity".

My birthday is September 11th and for many years since that fateful day in 2001, I have struggled to come to terms with celebrating in light of the tragedy. As the years have passed it has grown easier, yet the feeling remains. The Ritter's daughter Stella also shares my birthday, it was her 3rd birthday the day of the attacks. I will share a excerpt that will stay with me this year on my birthday. John Ritter himself said it best on Page 177 of With Love And Laughter;

"I asked him how we could do this. How Could we say "Happy Birthday" when we knew this day would always be the anniversary of the day this evil thing happened? Without hesitating, he said " Stella is proof that love still exists in the world, that somehow, we go on."

Two years later, John Ritter would die on the very same date. I remember working at the hospital on the night shift and hearing the news of his death. I was struggling to make it through my birthday without crying and that ended when I heard of his sudden death on his daughter's 5th birthday.

What a powerful statement and really great thing to think about. So this year on my birthday, which is special anyways, that's what I will be thinking.

The other part of the book that struck a cord with me was Amy's account of her grief. I really identified with parts of her grief and realized, some of the time Marty was sick was spent grieving our life before renal failure. Amy's thoughts on pages 202 and 203 respectively really hit me and are the best description of my viewpoint today.

" I would have pangs of disgust for myself-embarrassment,really- when I would flash back to a moment of frustration or sadness prior to John's death. I started to really beat myself up about time wasted or energy spent over petty disappointments and everyday aggravations." pg 202

"I would struggle to remember what made me sad before John died, and it would pale in comparison to my new circumstances but would excerbate my grief to know I had wasted time. I would think, This is what passed for a problem in those days? You know the good old days- a week ago, a day ago, a hour ago- back when I wasn't a widow."

Of course, I am not a widow but I did grieve our former life. Lucky for me, I get a second chance and now know that little things don't really matter and not to sweat the small stuff in life. Remember when life was simple and if it is simple, enjoy every waking moment.

I cannot recommend this book enough and in fact here is a link to Amazon to buy yourself a copy; With Love and Laughter, John Ritter By Amy YasBeck

I'm not getting paid to do this review, I just simply loved the book that much and wanted to share the nuggets of information that touched my heart.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Happy Birthday Friend Series: Happy birthday Traci!

Twelve years ago, our family joined a new church with a tiny group of young families. Conner joined the AWANA program that same year and one of his leaders was another mom named Traci. She really loved working with the kids and brought her three young boys to the same program as well. The next year, Traci became leader of Conner's program and set out to help him learn. The year before, Conner had not finished his book which was very sad for him.

Traci learned that Conner could listen to a CD to memorize his verses and gave him one. Not only did he finish his book that year, he did extra credit as well! Traci believed in finding Conner's learning style and working with it. She was truly one of his first champions in life.

We soon became phone pals, Traci was a stay at home working mom and we became friends through our long phone chats. Life had been tough for her, we had both faced battles with family leaving us and letting us down. She had a lot of walls to climb but God gave me an open door through the walls and she slowly but surely let me in and let me be her friend.

Rarely in life do I look up to people, we're all on the same level playing field in my book. I do however admire Traci's faith. She has a humble and honest faith, she sets up no pretenses and doesn't pretend to be perfect. Through the years, she has come to me, asking for prayer, showing me her downfalls, taught me many lessons about a true faith with humility, grace, honesty and dignity.

Traci used to be one of my biggest homeschooling skeptics, we had many debates about homeschooling during our phone calls. Then one day, Traci pulled her boys out of school and graduated two sons through homeschooling. She is a true champion for homeschooling now and has actually taught me many things!

She has lived a mother's worst fear, having your child diagnosed with an incurable disease. She has been a caretaking mother to her son Josh for many years. She has taught me many things about motherhood, living in the face of adversity and carrying on.

During the years Marty was ill, she was a huge supporter. Her perspective came from a place many don't understand or get because she has lived it in her own home. I truly couldn't have made it through without our many phone calls.

She won't like this blog because I have said too many nice things for her liking. She never pretends to be perfect, holier than thou, or anything other than someone trying to live their faith with flaws and all. She is real with real struggles and imperfections. Truth is, that is why I admire her.

Happy birthday Traci, I miss our phone chats or dropping by your house to chat. Though miles apart, we are still dear friends even though we may not talk as often. Wishing you a very happy birthday filled with many blessings!


Friday, August 1, 2014

The End of the Endless Summer

It's August 1st, it has been a long hiatus from blogging as I have started my new career path here in Tennessee. My plans to write my book while on my break have been waylaid by life being overwhelmingly busy with the processes of starting again here in Tennessee. Traditionally August is about music, blogging and celebrating life so I decided time to write again about our life and the happenings here in Vol country.


Sometimes we hide what is going on instead of being honest with others outside our inner circle. I have found being truthfully honest as an open book works better. People come to you, they share with you willingly because you can understand life isn't easy all the time.

This summer I have put in over 200 hrs at work, this has been a huge blessing and really kind of exciting for me. For seven wonderful years, I was a stay at home mom whose husband worked 80 plus hours a week supporting me and the kids as he faced major health issues. There were times he barely made it to work, passing out and being rushed to the hospital with blood pressures over 200/100 while waiting for his transplant.

I was raised in a family of working women, I watched my grandma take her nap on the floor each day during One Life To Live, fix her hair and go off to work the swing shift. My aunts Maggie, Patty and Jeanette all went to work and worked hard for their families. My mom has worked since I was fairly young, first as a pre-school teacher and then in her current role for the last 27 years. My grandpa's worked, and my Dad is the hardest worker anyone knows even technically working on his days off to help others. I was raised to be a hard worker, I know no other way. I never dreamed about being a stay at home mom until I had two kids and they needed me. I always knew, it was for me to work.

Marty and I moved to Tennessee for many reasons, we felt called here and without a doubt it was for me to have the current job I have. It is the perfect fit for me, helping others who are in a role that I have spent years in myself. I am really good at what I do daily and this is the job for me.

Marty has a job where he is off for the summer with no pay. So my job this summer was to work as much overtime as possible to try to fill in the gap. Moving took our entire savings until he got a job and we have been slowly re-building this past year. Marty looked for a summer job but in the south, things don't move quickly and his summer job started this week.....he goes back to school on Monday!

Marty has a lot of faith in God's provision and it has been truly amazing for all of us to see God working it out. We have made it through and our bills have been paid, we have eaten and still lived fairly normally with a few small edits to the normal budget ie. no vacations or grand eating out adventures, no shopping for non necessities etc.

Why am I sharing what most people hide? because sometimes people need to hear the real truths in peoples lives. Sometimes they need to know they aren't alone in struggling. I had a wise young man tell me,'' when people see the ''perfect'' family they aren't seeing the whole picture.''

Summer was so fun, my mom, aunt, uncle  came to visit. We went to Dollywood, traveled to see some of our Cherokee history and just enjoyed being a family together. It was so nice to see my aunt and uncle, who I hadn't seen in a few years. It was nice to have my mom here and see family.

We also traveled to my cousin Ben's wedding,  he married a beautiful girl brought a new member into our big family. It was so nice to share in their day, it was very emotional, I cried numerous times. Ben and I danced together crying wishing our grandparents could be there too. I love my uncle's family and being with people who I look like is nice.

Then July, the Tour de France, my favorite event of the summer. It was tough because I worked and couldn't really watch the race. Thankfully my friend Dot drove seven hours to spend the weekend with me watching the finale of the race. Even though I missed a lot of racing, I think this tour will be memorable to me forever because of some really special reasons that have to do with the people of the cycling community in general.



Now August is coming, Marty is heading back to school and life is returning to normal. The kids will both be in high school this year and we have a lot of work to focus on with that. Conner has two jobs, Elizabeth is baking up a storm and making new friends.

One thing this summer, we have been grateful for those friends who have supported us in prayer as we trusted God. So many were there for us, lifting us up and making the effort. As we make new friends in Tennessee, Elizabeth and I have been learning to look forward instead of looking back. Sometimes we get disappointed things aren't the same with the friends we left but then we remember life is moving forward not back. We are thankful for those who make the effort to come visit, to check in and listen to us.



We have enjoyed the beautiful summer weather, lots of really good family time, laughter, happiness and joy. One of the things that happened was Debbie, our donor Jerry's mom sent us a video of Jerry's life and bracelets. I look at my wrist with Jerry's name on it every day, I realize how good our life is because of their gift and how Marty not getting paid is NOTHING compared to where we came from. We are blessed and grateful for our life now, we are really loving our new jobs and life in Tennessee.

As tradition, August is the month I do my ''Music that Takes Me Back'' series.  Summer is always about the Beach Boys. So I will share something Marty has said to me all summer:





PSI have been working on memorizing Matthew 6 this summer:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Conner Overcomes

When Conner was four years old, my friend Staci noticed something one day while babysitting him. She noticed he would reverse letters and had a hard time with his colors. She had a daughter the same age as Conner, who knew these things and Stacy mentioned to me that maybe something was going on? Conner was a boy and boys tend to be developmentally behind girls, so I thought nothing of it.

We had chosen to homeschool our children long before our kids were school age. We liked the idea and thought it would work for our family. Staci's daughter and Conner's cousin were starting school that fall so I decided to start Conner, I had started school at 4 1/2 and thought he was ready. We started with a very simple curriculum and basics. The first day, when quizzing Conner, he kept missing the letters but Elizabeth who was two was picking them up. Halfway through the term, Conner was frustrated because his sister was catching on but he wasn't catching on. We decided to stop and wait until he was closer to six to start Kindergarten based on everything I had read regarding boys and learning.

The following fall, we started Kindergarten again armed with more resources and material.  Everyone was questioning my ability to homeschool and our family's choice. Conner was still writing in complete mirror image by that spring and struggle to pick up reading. He would also jumble sayings and phrases, struggled to get his words out in order, he also failed vision testing at the pediatrician and eye doctor. We had a feeling, that something was going on with him. After testing by a neuropyscholgist , we learned Conner had a language processing disorder, along with dyslexia. Basically, he had trouble processing what he was being told and putting it down on paper and knowing what to do with it?

Our hearts broke as parents, how would he overcome this and what would happen to him someday? would he be able to make it through school and go to college someday? When you learn there is something wrong, you grieve the ''what could have been'' after a while, I set out to educate myself how to best teach him. Basically, we formed our own IEP based on Conner's learning style.

I learned that Conner really was good at memorizing things and picked up by listening to things set to music. His AWANA leader Traci helped me get a CD for his verses to listen to. The first year he had failed to finish his book, the second year along with the help of this CD, he finished his book and extra credit. Another friend directed me to a Language Arts program especially for kids with learning issues.

We had tried several reading programs, We finally found the funny enough, Hooked on Phonics along with an Orton Gillingham based approached worked for him. I hid the fact his sister had learned to read from listening to the hours I spent teaching him. When he was eight years old, he proudly called his Poppa Brown to read to him. Conner could finally read.

Eventually that same year, he figured out that he was behind. He found out his sister was on his same level at six that he was at eight and that he had a learning issue. We cried a lot of tears that year, I encouraged him to find ways that worked best for him and taught him in ways that suited his tactile learning style along with using as much set to music that I could.

Fast forward to 2014, Conner has long ago learned to compensate with his learning style. I have likened our homeschool adventure as being on a fast moving train that you cannot jump off. He path clearly set out to graduate has been long laid out by his rate of learning and what needs to happen. We offered them the chance to go to public school when we moved to TN and both kids chose homeschooling. Conner especially because he knows what needs to be done  and happen to graduate based on our long ago formed IEP.

This year, he wanted to join a local academy. As parents, we had put him in other classes before but this was out of the homeschool community. It entailed a lot of reading, memorizing and writing. Memorizing is his strong suit but writing is still something he struggled with in the past. Testing is something that has been tough in the past as well.

He has blown us away with his hard work, diligence and study habits. We have not had to help him, to push him or prod him during the academy. He has found his niche, excelled beyond our wildest dreams. He came home last night, one week left in the academy to say he got all of his tests back. He scored FIVE 100% scores including his mid-term with the lowest score of 85% on one test. To say we're thrilled, overjoyed and proud is an understatement. His future looks very bright and he has even formed a game plan for post high school, all on his own.

I wrote this for the other mom's out there, the mom's who are in the trenches still struggle to find answers and plans. For mom's still searching for answers, grieving that loss of ''normal'' and wondering, ''what will happen to my child?'' hang in there, fight, don't give up, listen to your gut and don't let anyone bring you down. There is hope and your child can overcome.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Remembering Jimmy, Help Us Never Forget

25 years ago on a warm May night in Southern California, I sat on the floor of our apartment watching t.v. on our console television. I don't remember what I was watching, it was early evening the sky was still light but I remember the little yellow words that scrolled across the screen. Across the screen of the show I was watching the words "Frigate USS Stark bombed in the Persian Gulf off the coast of Iraq" crawled slowly across the screen.

"Mom, Mom, Jimmy's ship has been bombed" I yelled into the kitchen where Mom was cooking dinner. She came out and tried to tell me I was wrong. "No Mom, I am right. Jimmy is on the Stark. I know it" she ran to the phone to call my Gramie. I was only 10 years old, 4 months shy of my 11th birthday.

Of course, Gramie confirmed that I was correct and we waited. The next day word came, Jimmy was one of 37 sailors killed on the Stark. Jimmy was actually my Mom's cousin, son of her beloved Aunt Pat in Visalia. Aunt Pat was the sister of my Kankad ( Grandad) and the only living relative we had to my Grandad who had passed away several years earlier.

We often made the trip up the 99 north to Visalia to see Aunt Pat and her boys. She had five boys whom were more like brothers to my mom. In fact, their families had lived together when my grandparents moved out from Kansas in the 50's until my grandparents bought a house. They were a close knit family and I grew up close to the boys as well. We all referred to each other as "cuz" and just loved being together.

I remember my last visit in the winter, seeing Jimmy come down the hall wearing a sweater and his trademark smile. He had served one enlistment in the Navy and re-enlisted for a second. He had told my Gramie that he was going somewhere he really didn't want to go. In fact, a letter from Jimmy arrived just days before his death for my Gramie. He never failed to remember his "Aunt Mearle" by sending her cards, letters  and gifts. It was a ceramic Stark ashtray in Gramie's living room that was in my mind when I saw the little yellow words.
Bob Kumerow and James Stevens
1987 on board the USS Stark Courtesy Karen Stevens


Seeing the face you love in the newspaper in class at school listed as one of the dead is something you never get over. Seeing your aunt receiving a flag with your mom bawling in the background splashed across the front page of another paper. Things like that never leave you as much as remembering a beautiful smile and a great laugh. He was my uncle Greg's best friend and I can say that Greg never was the same after that day. Nobody was the same ever again...death has a way of leaving that mark.
2/8/60-5/17/87 Freedom isn't free



A year later, the Veterans in Visalia decided to start hanging casket flags in the cemetary on Memorial day and having service to remember. My Aunt Pat was one of the first to donate and Jimmy's is flag number 36 right as you walk in. In 1990, she asked me to attend with her and I remember her standing when they asked the gold star mom's to stand. It was held under a green funeral awning in a grassy area, maybe 60 people in attendance. She wanted me to take a picture with by Jimmy's flag together which I didn't know would start a tradition in years to come.

Aunt Pat and Julie May 1991

In the years following, I would grow closer to Aunt Pat. She was a huge part of my life and I eventually moved to be close to her. I got to spend two years living in the same town as her and enjoyed that special time together.

She passed away in 2001. I continue the tradition of going to the cemetery each memorial day for the service. It was grown to nearly a thousand in attendance with almost two thousand flags lining the streets of the cemetery. It is truly one of the most beautiful, moving sights to behold. Each year, I line my kids up in front of Jimmy's flag and make them take a picture. Next year, I hope to be able to attend the national memorial in Mayport,Florida to represent our family.

I want my kids to know that freedom comes at a cost. I want to carry on a mother's love and make sure her son isn't forgotten. To make sure that a memory lives on and the world doesn't forget. Jimmy never got to see 30, I have lived longer than he did now.  Life has gone on but the memories don't fade and I won't let that ever happen.