Friday, July 18, 2014

Old-School Reading And Writing And The Benefits

As I was going over a list of things to do today in terms of my blog, I was struck with how much social media has taken over a lot of my time.  I don’t  feel  like I can sit down and solely write content. The pull of social media sites is strong and many times I succumb, spending way too much time updating Facebook and Twitter posts, reading and responding to e-mails and trying to grow my social media reach.  This leaves me precious little time to actually write!  Bloggers are told that we need to have Twitter followers, Facebook likes, Stumbleupon thumbs up, Pinterest Boards, Klout Scores, LinkedIn connections and more!  I think it’s because people are looking for the quick bites of information via texts, notifications, e-mail , search terms and hash tags.  
  Research shows that 8 seconds is the new attention span limit.  It used to be closer to 21 seconds!  And of course bloggers want to take advantage of that 8 second window!  However, this constant stream of quick hits of information flooding the brain in random and rapid succession  is proving to be problematic  to the human memory.

Dr. Adam Gazzaley of UC San Francisco discovered that distractions are a key component in the natural decline of the human memory!  Think about it, what are distractions?  They are exactly what I am talking about.  Social media is a series of distractions! 

With the advent of the internet, social media, and its amazing capacity to supply information, we often neglect the part of the brain that needs to be exercised daily with reading and writing!  It’s kind of an irony that the Information Age is contributing to the dumbing up of Americans.  But we don’t have to let our brains succumb to the craziness.  We can do things, with both reading and writing, to exercise our brains and ensure we keep our edge, so important in an increasingly complicated world, constantly changing at a breakneck pace.


Reading a novel, short story or information on a topic you are interested in can keep the brain active and can prevent Alzheimers.  It can also improve your mood and helps to boost analytical thinking, along with developing vocabulary.  Reading fiction makes you more empathetic of others and also enhances your memory.  Cracking open a book makes you a better  writer, which is another important exercise you can do to help your brain counteract the mind numbing effects of the Age Of Information!


Writing is a wonderful way to boost the benefits that reading starts.  In addition to mental stimulation, writing is an exploratory exercise, giving you immense understanding into your own inner workings.  It can be very cathartic!  Doing a daily writing, whether it is in a journal, on a blog, or on a Word Doc, will help you immensely!  Do it first thing in the morning and it will wake you up and energize you.  Do it reflectively in the evening and it will relax you.  Writing with a purpose can accomplish so much!  An exercise that I think is very provocative is to write a historical fiction story, with a definite goal. The goal would be to write about one of your relatives or ancestors.  Maybe you know their name, where they were born and where they died, but not much else.  You know they existed and you, more than anyone else, have an interest in their life.  Bring it to life with your own writing! 

    My Guest writer, Aundria Kenning, has done just that!  She takes  a name, date and maybe one lone fact and turns it into a story woven around the life of that person.  It’s a fascinating concept that can illuminate the lives of those directly related to you! 

Aundria also helps writers improve their writing with coaching and suggestions on a site called  It is free and a great resource if you are wanting to become a better writer and aren’t afraid of a constructive comment  about things you have already written!   She is also a judge for writing contests at the site.  Here is what Aundria has to say about writing and our busy lives – 

"The only factor becoming scarce in a world of abundance is human attention." - Kevin Kelly, Wired magazine

Everyone is too busy! Texting has become the communication of the day. The messages are quick and concise and even the small words are abbreviated or left out altogether. Punctuation has been replaced by emoticons and misspellings are overlooked. A new language has been created and the magic of words has been forgotten. Free time is scarce and distractions are plentiful. Disconnection through connectivity is the challenge of our age.

With time at such a premium, how can we grasp and keep the attention of the wandering mind? How can we make our family history relevant in an age of instant information? How can we make our ancestors heard in an era where there is already too much noise?
Many genealogists want to inspire the members of their family with the hidden treasures and triumphs they have uncovered. They want to share their passion for family history and the wisdom of the generations that have come before. But they fear that these stories will wither and die for lack of interest and the lure of idle industry. I hope to help them accomplish this goal. I am fascinated by characters and hope to help discover the people behind the names.

By writing their stories in a short but informative form, short stories are quick and unobtrusive. They ask little time of the reader, yet can ignite their imagination. Through the use of historical fiction and short memoirs, we can breathe life into well-known anecdotes and create a spark of interest into otherwise forgotten family lore. The true character and thoughts of our ancestors will live again when the world they lived in is re-created.
If you are interested in joining a community of writers with this goal, and beginning your own online portfolio of family memoirs and their stories, please come visit us at the Roots and Wings Discussion Forum. This group offers a discussion forum, prompts to help you get started on finding these stories, and even a writing contest. It is located in an online writer’s community. While membership is required, it is free. To join our site, please visit to get started. If you have any questions, please contact Aundria Kenning at

 Disclaimer:  I was not compensated in any way for writing this post.  Posting guest content does not indicate personal endorsement or promotion.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A $50 eGiftCard #Giveaway to The Magic Zoo #Jewelry + 10% Discount Code!

 Thank you for joining A GAL NEEDS...for this great giveaway! One lucky reader will receive a $50 eGiftCard to purchase any item from The Magic Zoo!  Read about our awesome sponsor below and enter the giveaway at the bottom of this post!  Good luck!

We all have special people in our lives, as well as special animals.  The Magic Zoo creates fine jewelry for you to wear, honoring those special and beautiful animals!  Wear the animal or pet that you love in a beautiful animal pendant of sterling silver or 14K gold. Every one of the designs is available in gold or sterling silver. Some select designs are also available in ceramic and lead-free pewter.  Capture the warmth of the human-animal bond with an animal pendant representing your furry, feathered or scaled companion. Add a high-quality chain of either silver or gold and your pet necklace is ready to wear as soon as it arrives. Feel connected to your pet wherever you are.  Below are just a few of the animals immortalized into wearable art!  But there are so many more, check it out!  Also, read Helena's full review here!   Use the special discount code below, giving 10% off any purchase at check-out! AGALNEEDS10 (Valid through July 29th only)

Sterling Silver Bassett Hound

Enamel Guinea Pig

Enamel and Pewter Parrot

14k Gold Earrings
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Yummy Barley Recipe - #VeggieBurgers

Are you ready for another barley recipe?  Barley, as it turns out, is a wonderful grain.  I was able to create a Barley and Black Bean Burger of my own that looks like a real hamburger and tastes amazing! My inspiration comes from The Cooking Network and Pinterest!
I never even considered this additional reason as to why barley is great to cook with.  Aside from being high in protein and fiber, it is very inexpensive!  And when combined with another inexpensive food, black beans, it is a great budget meal!  I quite like veggie burgers but have come to understand that if they are purchased, many of them have additives and are full of GMO by-products, so make your own!  They look and taste so much better!  Here's what I did!

Barley and Black Bean Burgers - Yield: 4 Burgers
Black Beans take a long time to cook but are finally done here!

My Ingredients:
  • 1/2 c. dried black beans, soaked overnight, cooked in crock pot on low until soft (low - 8 hours, high- 6 hours)
  • 1/4 c. hulled barley, cooked on stove top until soft, usually about 1 hour
  • 1/2 c. chopped green pepper
  • 2 stalks celery chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onions or scallions
  • 1/2 cup kale or chard chopped rough
  • Approx. 3 Tbsp. bread crumbs or crushed croutons
  • Olive oil
  • Bacon drippings or oil of choice
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/6 tsp. Chili Powder or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp Seasoning Mix (I use Spike) or to taste
  • 1/6 tsp. Cayenne or to taste

After beans and barley are cooked and soft (make sure to salt each while cooking), process them in a blender or food processor until they are well-mixed. 

In olive oil, sautee the vegetables until tender, adding kale or chard leaves last, cooking them until wilted.  Add in the seasonings to taste.  Add this into bean and barley mixture and blend until well processed.  In addition, add approximately 2 tsp. bacon drippings (or another oil of your choice), and the bread crumbs.  The mixture should be well mixed and feel like wet clay.  Form into 4 patties and put into frying pan and brown with oil of your choice.  
Burgers browning in the pan

Once browned, finish cooking them in a preheated 350 degree oven, about 15 - 20 minutes.  Serve on buns with tomatoes, lettuce, and condiments of your choice. 
Finished Sandwich
Serve with Sauteed Swiss Chard and Bacon!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Swiss Chard and #Bacon With Parmesan

  If you haven't cooked with Swiss Chard, I suggest you do it this summer!  It's delicious! 
 I'm embarrassed to say I had never cooked Swiss Chard before a couple of years ago, but after I did, there was no turning back.  The leafs are very thick and don't look like they would be very good raw, like in a salad.

 First, I cut up an onion, 2 carrots and some garlic.  I sauteed these in some bacon drippings until they were tender. (I love bacon drippings.  I'm like my grandmother, I save it every time we cook bacon!)

I then added some chicken broth and put in the finely chopped red stalks of the chard.  I cooked these until they were tender and lastly, added the leaves and cooked them until they wilted!  I added some crumbled bacon, lemon juice and topped it with Parmesan Cheese.

The result was amazing!  I felt like a chef indeed!  I absolutely love the subtle zingy taste of the chard.  It is a great addition to any meal!

Friday, July 11, 2014

A Lasting Tribute To A Beloved Pet! Magic Zoo Jewelry

Some of you know I have a Border Collie named Evee!  She is quite like my child and definitely part of the family.  She likes to play tug-of-war, fetch, catch, and go on long walks, both on and off leash.  She is an amazing Frisbee catcher and loves to show off her skills.  She loves to hear the oohs and ahhhhs when she leaps off of the ground and catches the Frisbee mid-air.   She is a bit finicky and doesn’t like to share very much with other dogs or with children.  Each of my three youngest nephews has had a little run-in with her because they have gotten into her space a little too quickly.  She requests, no she demands, respect from those who interact with her, especially those she feels dominant towards.  And by respect, I mean to not get too touchy-feelie too quickly, especially around her nose and face, don’t take her toys from her unless you have that confidence that she wants you to, don’t tease her with food and don’t play with her food dish while she is eating.  To her pack she is a protector, a nurturer, a companion and a child.  She knows I’m momma. 
When I heard there is a company called The Magic Zoo that is passionate about creating pieces of quality jewelry that depict animals, I was very intrigued.  I love all kinds of animals and I feel kinship with many of them and felt that I would love many different kinds of animals in a piece of jewelry.  But what did I do first when I visited the website?  I looked to see if there might be a border collie piece.  Why?  Because I love my dog!  And yes, there was a sterling silver border collie pendant, which I ordered.  

When I received the piece, I was impressed because the artist captured the Border Collie at rest.  The ears flopping down, the content smile on the face with the tongue slightly out, and the stripe down the nose.   I loved it!  Don’t have a border collie?  No worries, there are 46 different dog breeds depicted on the site.  Also, I heard through the grapevine that the artist, Merry Rosenfield, loves to work with her customers to make the perfect piece.  She is very accessible.   I actually had a question about her most popular animal pieces and she personally responded, telling me that the guinea pig pieces are super popular.  People must really love their guineas!  It makes me want to have a guinea pig as a pet...  The most popular dog order is the Yorkie puppy, another really sweet and popular pet!
But there are so many more animals depicted with jewelry at The Magic Zoo!  There are farm animals, pocket pets, sea animals, butterflies, cats, reptiles, and insects.  The materials used are sterling silver, enamel, pewter, gold, and bronze.  There is a metal for everyone and a price for everyone. 
About the Artist:  Merry Rosenfield has been fascinated with animals since her childhood and now has meshed her art talent with her love of animals.  She has animals represented from all around the world.  She states, “My dream day would include creating new animal designs from early morning until I couldn’t keep my eyes open at night.”  You want someone who is that passionate about their work doing work for you! 
If you love animals, and want to express that with the very fashion you wear, you can count on Magic Zoo to help you make the statement beautifully.  Animals are beautiful--why not make them a part of what makes you unique?  Make a lasting tribute to your favorite animal with a unique piece of jewelry!  If you had just one choice, what animal would you want to pay tribute to? 

Disclaimer:  I received product for the purpose of review.  All thoughts and experiences are mine!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Hope For Yo-Yo Diet Cycle - Shake The Crave

 Here is my diet cycle.  Sound familiar anyone?  Day 1 – I’m so motivated.  I've got a vacation, events, and cute clothes to wear and I'm going to take advantage of it by being 10 lbs. lighter!  This is the day I will pull myself out of the quagmire of diet failure!  I start out with a healthy breakfast.  I know that it’s important to start out with a good breakfast!  Gotta keep that energy up!  2 hours later, however, I start to feel hungry and my stomach starts to feel a little growly.  I go in and grab a healthy sized healthy snack, telling myself I will watch it at lunchtime.  It’s definitely not too late, I've got this!  Lunchtime comes and I’m feeling hungry again.  I look at what my co-workers or my husband or the people on the Food Network are eating and I don’t want to be deprived, so I get myself an extra helping of something plus another food item.  Alright now I’m feeling a little apprehensive about the future of this first day of the rest of my life.  C’mon, let’s not make it like all of the rest of the days I failed!  I swear to myself that I will definitely have to watch it from now until bedtime.  Evening comes around and I’m watching my favorite t.v. show.  I can’t watch t.v. without feeling a bit hungry, which I am.  It’s been 5 hours already.  I feel deprived but yet at the same time I tell myself I should be careful.  I eat a full dinner.  In front of the t.v.  Day 1 – Epic Fail!!!!
Day 2 – I don’t eat breakfast, in fact, I don’t eat until 2 pm.  I hop on the scale again, after this morning’s initial eye-popping number  to validate that this was a great idea.  Sure enough, I’ve lost a lb. from this morning’s dismal reading.  Great!  It’s a good thing, ‘cause I’m hungry.  I look in the freezer and there sits a carton of my favorite ice cream!  Tillamook, you are a bad, bad company because before I know what’s happening, I dish out 3 large scoops of Mudslide.  Ha!  But I’m being  smart.  I put in a half cup of Oatmeal to up the fiber count!  And hey, that’s all I’ll be eating until right at 7 pm when I plan to have a healthy green smoothie and call it a night.  
  At 3 pm I realize that I committed to bring food for our women’s group summer get-together.  It’s going to be salad with a chicken option and desserts.  I tell myself I will just have the salad and a tiny bit of chicken for the protein.  When I get there, it looks amazing! The food is delicious and conversations are lively.  I look around and I am not, by any means, the biggest gal in the room.  It makes me feel more at ease and so, I sample all of the entrees and many of the desserts.  I leave realizing that I have just failed Day 2.
But there is a ray of hope.  After my 4th of July food fest, I found the motivation to do a little less eating and a little more exercising and so this morning I was right at my ready-set-go weight.  It is 15 lbs. above what I’d llke to be, but not as bad as it could be.  Of course I've already repeated my Day 1 pattern.  However, I do know something that breaks my cycle of epic diet fails. 

Appetite Curbing Foods.    I recently wrote about barley being very good at suppressing the appetite because it makes you feel fuller longer.  It really does work!  Another thing that is a great substitute for the ice cream that somehow I feel like I need in my life,  is an appetite suppressing  shake.  It needs to have natural ingredients and it needs to make me feel full, as well as satisfy that sweet-tooth dairy craving I have.  It's the craving that makes me buy ice cream even though I know I’m kidding myself when I tell myself that it will only be eaten in small amounts and will last for at least a fortnight.  I will eat every last bit of it in less than a week.

 I know appetite curbing foods work because I was successful at replacing certain trigger foods that are high in calories--low in staying power.  And that is why I’m not any heavier than I am right now.  I just need to have a lot of it on hand.  And that is my commitment.  

 Trusted Health Products carries some amazing natural facial care products that I love.  Now they have finished developing and have released their newest product.  It’s called Shake The Crave, an all-natural  meal replacement/snack.  The name says it all.  I like it because it’s 120 calories of high protein, great- tasting goodness!  You can mix it with whole milk, 2% milk, almond milk, rice milk, coconut milk, etc. depending on your preference.   I really liked the taste of both the chocolate and vanilla!  They taste great, not like some kind of yukky diet drink.  And it does keep me very satisfied until it’s time to eat.  It’s got 100% organic natural ingredients.  Here is the ingredient label for the vanilla:  Organic Non-Fat Dry Milk, Organic Cane Sugar, Organic Coconut Powder, Organic Ground Vanilla Bean, Electrolyte Blend (Potassium Citrate, Calcium Chloride, Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Sulfate, Potassium Phosphate, Potassium Chloride).Allergen information: Contains milk and coconut.

At only $40 per canister, allowing for 2 shakes per day for one week, the cost boils down to $2.67 per day.  Not bad, you could break an energy drink habit, a diet coke habit, or a candy bar habit for that amount, replacing it with something amazing for your health!  Right now you can get a free 2 sample package for just the cost of shipping, which is $4.95 U.S.  It’s a great way to see for yourself whether or not you can succeed at your goals, especially if you have unwanted food cravings!

disclaimer:  I received sample products for review purposes.  All opinions and experiences are my own.