Showing posts with label Real World Speculating. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Real World Speculating. Show all posts

Friday, March 13, 2015

Cleaning Silver Collectors Spoons- The Final Reveal

I know I speculate through fiction here on most days... "What would happen if I stuck my characters on a planet with sentient wind?" Most of the time speculation is done in the real world though. For example... "What would these look like if I could remove this tarnish?" Questions like these can lead you on a quest, not only to find answers, but to discover some new things along the way as well!

Tuesday of this past week I told you that I was busy cleaning a set of collectible spoons that had been passed down to me from my mom. Here are some of the before and after pictures:

Tarnished spoon
Spoon before cleaning

Kinda hard to see all that detail under the tarnish huh.


 AND... Now For The Clean Reveal!


Its kinda hard to see on this rack- but I assure you they are all just as clean, even though the picture makes some of them still look tarnished. Here's the last rack:

The top row is clean in this picture.

All completely clean and tarnish free!

There were many of these spoons that I had never seen clean before, being that they were my mothers they have been there for most of my life. Many of them had details hidden under the tarnish that I never even knew existed! It was really cool seeing them come to sparkling life again!

I found some spoons in this collection that I even remember giving to mom years ago.

For those of you who have silver- or silver plated items you are wanting to clean, here is some advice:

  • First, yes you can polish them with toothpaste but it takes twice as long and doesn't come out half as shinny. (this was one of my first discoveries... it took me a whole day to do the tallest rack with toothpaste. It was hard work and then I still ended going back over them with the silver polish)
  • Second, some silver polish is ABSOLUTELY your best friend here.
  • A washcloth for rubbing the polish on, a bucket of water to rinse, and a towel for drying and you are good to go.
  • You will also want to wear rubber gloves. The first reason is that the polish can irritate your skin. The second reason is that the oils from your skin will cause future tarnish. Clean and handle your silver with gloves at all times if possible.
  • Another helpful tip. An old toothbrush for those high detailed areas comes in very handy. I keep one stored under my sink just for this purpose!

Do you have any things you collect? I'd love to hear about them! How do you display them and keep them clean?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Don't Bite Heads Off

Ask Nicely

I'm just gonna leave this here. Something that I have been seeing examples of a lot lately, in real life and in the series my family is re-watching (Smallville). Someone wants something and they jump to conclusions and get all nasty about things before even stopping to consider what the outcome might have been if they had asked politely and nicely.

Not everyone is like Lex Luther from Smallville, deviously planning things behind the scenes and leaving Clark to always blame him first. Well, because lets face it, it normally IS Lex's fault.

Would their relationship have been any different had Clark tried to connect and hang out more with Lex in the beginning? Eh, maybe not- because it is Superman's story after all and somethings just can't change without messing up the whole series.

And then we have major disasters like what happened to our neighbor last year. Something broke her waterline right at the shut off in front of her house. No one was home and we didn't notice it till the middle of the night when I ran outside to scare away some dogs that were ganging up on another dog.

I ended up ankle deep in water in the middle of this lady's yard, waving and yelling like a lunatic. Yeah, I'm nuts... I know. Anyhow, the dogs ran off and I realized that gallons upon gallons of water were gushing out all over the place.

Now, I don't know how this lady reacted but I do know how some might have. Calling up and fussing out your water company because the water bill is high and it wasn't your fault may not be the right thing to do. Fast forward to this recent cold snap and I found out something really nice about the water company!

Our pipes were run in our attic, during the last cold snap they froze and created an epic gargantuan disastrous mess. Water damage company and insurance company was called, yeah... after we panicked a tiny bit first of course. THEN we received the water bill. Oh my gosh was it high (hundreds of dollars).

So I called the water company up and explained to them what happened and that we just don't have the funds to pay all this up front and was there perhaps a way to set up a payment plan. The lady told me not to worry about it, just send them an invoice of what repairs were done and what the damage cost and they would deduct the water overage off of our bill.

Color me shocked and relieved!

But lets rewind to the very angry water patron from earlier (imaginary of course). Had our irate customer simply explained to the water company that there was damage done (and it wasn't that they were filling up swimming pools) then the water company would have been able to answer politely in return. Everything would have been fine, and our irate customer needn't have embarrassed themselves.

So- lesson from all this? Be calm, ask nicely, and try to put yourself in the other person's shoes.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

What Advancement Do You Want To See In The Future?

Cityscape - One IFC, BoC Tower
photo credit: Mr Wabu via photopin cc

Time to give you a chance to speculate among the stars!
So... you've been given a time machine to use- just to peek into the future once and then come home.

New things are being invented every day! New ideas are coming to life which will change the future we are headed for.

What advancement would you most like the future to have?

A cure for something?

Warp Drives?

Colonies on other planets?

While you are at it... check out this article about the worlds first truly heartless man who has no pulse yet lives! The Wonders of Technology!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

When You Cant Find Anything To Wear In Your Dresser

What is a girl to do? There's not a thing in my dresser that I feel like wearing today, so instead, I decided to look into my husbands dresser!

Mini geek rant alert: Why is it that the GUY section always has the coolest geek shirts and the women's section gets stuck with M&M's and cartoon characters?

Seriously! I wanna wear an Iron Man or Dr. Who T-shirt from time to time! Yeah sure... my hubby's T's are a tad baggy on me... but hey! Its a sci fi shirt! Who's complaining!

So friends and family... I've deliberately left the bottom of this picture out of the shot because the show title is on the bottom.

Who can tell me what franchise this T-Shirt is from? Extra points if you can tell me what specific movie in the franchise! ;)

And no- I don't typically go running around taking selfies of myself. I moved over to a new phone yesterday, the Motorola Maxx and I'm having fun trying out all the new things and trying to get comfortable with a new phone again. The screen is much bigger than my old LG and it feels thin in my hand without the rubber bumper slip on protector that I had on my LG. The only problem that I am having with this phone so far is finding a protective case for it that FITS and that I like. I still don't see how those snap on hard cases protect the phones much...

Friday, January 16, 2015

Altering Spaghetti To Accommodate A Toddler

V.L. Jennings' Spaghetti
Growing up in my later years I discovered that I wasn't very fond of spaghetti. It took more work to eat it than most foods- I mean really... who wants to eat half a plate of spaghetti with sauce and the other half with a bland sorta 'no more sauce' taste? A lot of work goes into getting the proper sauce to noodle ratio on each spoon! Then you add in the fact that apparently tomato sauce just tasted really acidic to me, the same reason I dislike ketchup (and yet I LOVE hot sauce... how does that work?).

However, when you are trying to cook family meals on a budget, spaghetti is still awesome in a pinch.

When my husband and I married he came with two kids- ready made family. One was 2 almost 3 when we married and the other was 6. The oldest came with a bunch of medical issues, one of which being fine motor skills. What this boiled down to was having two kids in the house with the dexterity of a toddler.

At first I tried chopping the spaghetti up... yeah that went over well *sarcasm*. Not that they pitched a fit or anything, they just really didn't enjoy eating it. So I took a bite... and discovered that chopping up the spaghetti so fine may have made it easier to pick up but was BLAH as far as chewing texture goes.

Add that into the fact that noodles sliding all over the mouth leaves sauce all over the face... cute to some parents sure- I could see the appeal. Until I discovered that eldest's face would sport a red rash the next morning from the sauce. I thought about nixing spaghetti and pizza all together until I realized that she would only have a reaction if she made a mess of it on her face. If it all made it into her mouth... no problems at all.

Next time I decided to try using elbow noodles instead- SUCCESS!!!

From there, I was even more determined to tweak the sauce recipe to get just the right amount of flavor and enjoyment out of it. Heck, if I'm going to be working over a stove to make this than it better be enjoyable to eat even for the cook!

I was raised on the walmart brand of jar'd spaghetti sauce, it was the cheapest, and I am on a budget so I stuck with that as a base. I also wanted something to cut down on the tang of the tomato taste in the spaghetti sauce. Walking through the spaghetti isle I noticed the jars of alfredo... Why not! Lets try that and see how that tastes!

TONS better!

Fast forward to the end of 2014... hamburger meat is sky high... and strangely enough sausage is CHEAPER than hamburger meat (where before hamburger was cheaper). So to save money on my spaghetti dinner I opted for two lbs of sausage instead of my usual hamburger.

Ok... now I have total yumness!

I may eventually go back to using spaghetti noodles but for now my third child is 3 soon to be four, (*cries* is it really that time already!) and he loves the elbows!

V.L. Jennings' Spaghetti

1- 16oz box of elbow noodles
1- small jar of alfredo sauce
1 extra large jar (66oz) and one medium jar (45 oz) of your choice spaghetti sauce
2lbs of sausage (I like to do one spicy, one regular or one regular, one sage)

Brown spaghetti sauce and boil noodles/drain. Mix sauce, sausage, and alfredo in one big pot. Makes two dinner nights for 5 people!

PS If you are here wondering how my Crock Pot Ham turned out... 

Well I am happy to report that it was, fall of the bone, absolutely AWESOME! I ended up cooking it for 5 hours on high- I had an appointment so I didn't get back till then. However, I believe it may have been done around 4 hours.

It was SO juicy that I could shred it easily with just ONE fork!

Each bite was full of flavor and SO super succulent! It was a big success with my kids and my husband. Plus I even have some left over that I think I will shred into some mac n cheese for tonight's meal!

Anyhow- I hope you enjoyed these recipe's! Stay tuned... there's no telling what sorts of things I will go exploring or altering next!

Do you have a recipe you've altered that you would like to share? Tell us about it in the comments! I love to try new dishes!

Mad Scientist Mac N Cheese and Crock Pot Ham

Crock Pot Ham
Crock Pot Ham!
One of the key things about 'exploring human potential' is the desire to learn something new. To create something, to try to figure things out. Here I am, diving into the unknown again with some real world speculating!

Lately I have been experimenting with different recipes, combining the elements I like and subtracting the ones I don't like as I mix different recipes together. It can be tricky mixing recipes together, I always try to take a moment to mentally predict how each ingredient will interact with the others before I jump into the recipe. Now, I did this all on Christmas day... but if you are not that gutsy you may want to make this for a regular meal before you make it for company.

My original OVEN recipe called for just one cup of milk but the noodles were also supposed to be cooked before being added.

The first new crock pot recipe I had called for the elbow noodles to be cooked before they went into the crock pot and I wanted to avoid that. That recipe called for 3/4c of milk and 2 eggs. (The eggs didn't sound appetizing here so I ditched those)

Another crock pot recipe that DID call for uncooked noodles asked for 2.5 c milk and 12 oz of evaporated milk. This recipe also called for cream cheese- which would have made the mixture softer but we preferred the thick cheese texture anyhow. I was also afraid the cream cheese would have made the mixture a bit more sweet then we were used to.

Ultimately I mainly used my original baked mac recipe but added the evap milk and regular milk, as per the other recipes, in order to modify it so that I could avoid pre-cooking the noodles and do the whole thing in the crock pot.

My whole family loved this recipe! It was a big success!

My Crock Pot Mac used:

16 oz of uncooked elbow noodles
two cans of condensed cheddar cheese soup
a lb of shredded cheese
2 and a half cup of milk
and one 12oz can of evaporated milk.

Cook on low for 2.5 - 3 hours in crockpot. May stir at the 2 hr mark to check.

CROCK POT BAG recommended! Makes clean up way easier.

Today I am attempting to cook a Ham in the crock pot.... its an uncooked ham which I've never attempted to cook before.

I put a layer of brown sugar and mustard in the bottom of the crock pot. Set the ham flat side down in the crock pot. Put brown sugar, mustard and on a whim I added some vinegar over the top. Lid on and because I intend to eat it tonight I am cooking it on High and hoping it is done in about 6.5 hours.

*fingers crossed* I'll let you know how it turns out!

Tomorrow... if I remember, I will share with you my alterations for spaghetti!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Turbo Roaster Review

Turbo Roaster Box image from

My husband gifted me a Turbo Roaster for Christmas about two years ago. I like to try something out thoroughly before I write up a review for it. Honestly, I love this thing! I've used it about 5 times so far. The Turbo Roaster has made my holidays so much more enjoyable and cooking so much more efficient!

I cook a turkey for both Thanksgiving and Christmas most years. Typically this entails getting up at the crack of dawn to put the turkey in the oven while everyone is asleep. Finding a way to get it in the oven without waking up my kids on Christmas morning has always been a major hurdle.

No longer! I haven't gotten around to timing the cooking EXACTLY due to various holiday distractions... but I do know that the cooking time is cut in HALF! I no longer wake up at the crack of dawn to prepare my turkey. This year I was up by 8 and the 17lb turkey was done in about two hours! Normally I am finished with all my other cooking and waiting on my turkey to finish so we can eat dinner. This year- my turkey sat cooling while I rushed around to finish the rest of my cooking!
Tony Chachere's Injectable Turkey Marinade
 image from

Most of the time the turkey seasonings you add to the outside only help flavor the top little bit of the turkey meat. I've tried and tried and tried again and no matter how I prepped it my turkey always ended up dry on the inside. Using the Turbo Roaster, along with Tony Chachere's Injectable Turkey Marinade made my turkey come out very juicy and flavorful. Even the cold leftovers were finger licking good!

What is the Turbo Roaster?

Its a glass jar attached to a curvy metal tube with a canning lid and a plastic gasket. You fill the jar with water, attach the lid/tube set up and stick the end of it in the turkey before cooking. The oven heats up the water and causes steam to rise through the tube and cook the turkey from the inside while the oven cooks the turkey from the outside. Thereby cutting cooking time in half.

It does work with a stuffed turkey... just not as well.

Tips on using the Turbo Roaster

-I use a turkey pan rack to elevate my bird so that the jar can sit mostly flat in the oven- this helps.
-Leave the turkey unstuffed for best results (though I have done it both ways)
-Put glass jar directly on stove rack- it does not need a pan under it.
-*DO NOT FILL (even with HOT WATER) until the jar has cooled!

Ok... so for the bad news...

The jar on my turbo roaster smashed this Christmas... my own stupid fault- I forgot to let the jar cool before refilling it with hot water -.-

See... I did know better... the instructions are really rather clear on this point. However, I was battling a sinus infection and apparently my brain was all mush from it. (It even took me three separate tries to figure out how many chairs and plates we needed at the table- that's how bad my head felt.)

And now the jar for my turbo roaster sits on my counter in two pieces. *facepalm!*

So... now for some Real World Speculating

The jar mouth for the turbo roaster is the same size as a regular canning jar. So, I'm wondering if I could just switch out the broken jar with a regular wide mouthed canning jar instead. To know that I needed to look up online as to whether the canning jars could even be put in the oven or not.

That's when I stumbled on this Pie in a Jar recipe:

Seriously... even if you don't plan on cooking your pies in a jar, you just HAVE to check out these pictures! Tiny pies! The cuteness!

My favorite is when the blogger slides the baked pie right out of the jar and onto the plate- UBER CUTENESS!

Anyhow... Apparently you CAN put mason jars in the oven.

So next year (or the next time I cook a whole bird) I will swap out the broken jar for an ordinary canning jar and be sure to come back and report the results to you!

If it doesn't work, oh well... I will certainly buy another Turbo Roaster! 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Expanding Your Pool Potential

8 Ball corner pocket
photo credit: photosbyflick via photopin cc

Ever wanted to learn how to play pool? This handy piece of technology actually helps show and thereby teach you all the numerous angles and trajectories needed in order to make the perfect shot at the pool table! Not only do you get to play the game but you can show others how you made the shot too!

There was a scene on Star Trek once (I believe) where Spock had managed to send every ball to their pockets all in one shot- because he knew the geometry and the angles needed. I've always wondered if this was actually possible!

Wrapping Oddly Shaped Presents And Expanding Your Mind

Which present is mine?
photo credit: Randy Auschrat via photopin cc

You are on your own if you try to wrap a guinea pig!

What better way to exercise your brain and increase your own human potential than to learn some new origami this holiday season! I know how to make an origami frog, which comes in handy when trying to entertain your little kiddos, but this is really useful! Want to wrap that really odd shaped present?

Like, maybe you are that super cool parent that got their kid a model Millennium Falcon for Christmas! (yeah, we know you really bought it so you could play with it too!)

 Look what I found on! The Meredith Vieira Show  This is an awesome way to solve this problem!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Getting to Know Jo Linsdell and Maria Rochelle

Book tour banner!
Jasmine's Got Talent book tour!

Jasmine's Got Talent and the rest of the Jasmine's Dreams books are all available on Amazon!

About Jasmine's Got Talent: A miniature schnauzer has a dreamy adventure and dreams she's in a talent contest. 

Maria Rochelle, do you mind if I ask you and Jo a few random just for fun questions? :)

~What was your first job?
My first job was at Chick-fil-A as a cashier, and I also worked in food prep. I had a great time working there my senior year in high school. 

~My first job was a waitress and cashier too- be kind to the food industry workers, you never know what they might accomplish in a few years!

~What is your favorite movie?
Just one....I like so many. Braveheart and Pretty In Pink are two of my favorites.

~Hmm I've never seen 'Pretty In Pink' but 'Braveheart' was awesome!

~Who designed the cover and illustrated the book?
Jo Linsdell designed the cover and illustrated all my books. She has been wonderful to work with. 

~ Jo is awesome! I've been friends with her for quite a few years- its been awesome watching her illustrating talent grow!

Illustrator Jo Linsdell,

~What was the hardest part of working on this series?
Some of the animals were easy to do but with others it wasn't as simple and straight forward. A lot depends on the photo I have to work with. Then there's the simple fact that not all animals are easy to transform into the style used in the series. Certain breeds are easy to identify from the strong characteristics they have. When the animal is mixed breed and has lots of markings it gets more complicated. Those with lots of markings for example are hard to simplify whilst still putting in the details that make them who they are. I then need to add accessories to them to put them "in character". The end product needs to be clutter-free in keeping with the style used. Like I said, not always an easy task ;)

~I always love hearing about everyone's different processes. I absolutely adore your illustrations- even at the pencil sketch phase! Have you ever thought about doing a more realistic story book, sorta like your first round photo like sketches?

~What is your favorite color?

~NO WAY! Mine too! I like dark blue... well that and fuchsia... I think I have a tie...

~Who is your favorite artist?
Tough question. I love so many of them. Salvador Dali is definitely one of my favorites. I remember when they did an exhibition of his art here in Rome. I went twice and spent hours in there each time. I love how creative and imaginative he was. Eccentric and attention grabbing both in his art and in life. As well as the surrealist work he is most famous for, he was also a very good sculpture, and photographer.

~Oh cool! My personal favorite is Vincent Van Gogh- I ADORE his 'Starry Night'. On the rest of his paintings I love how he uses streaks of color and blends them all together to create the picture! Of course after seeing him 'come to life' in Doctor Who... that was the best!

~Where can people find out more about working with you?

At my website On site they can find information on my "work with me" page, read testimonials from people I've worked with, see examples of my work, and find out more about the projects I'm involved with.

~Awesome ladies! You two are major inspirations! Maria I am so honored to get a chance to meet you; and Jo- you are always welcome on my blog! I really enjoyed the inside look into how your illustration projects come together in last week's blog. Keep on inspiring the next generation to reach for the stars ladies!

If anyone has any questions for Jo or Maria, I've been told they may just stop by ;) So ask away!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

V.L. Jennings Movie Rating System

Your Ending Killed Your Story

 I  rate movies (and books) on an A- C scale. Sure Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble all may try to force me to use a five star system... but really- if you are unfortunate enough to need a one or two star well then I typically don't bother because numerous other people have probably already told you how awful it is and it wouldn't be kind of me to heap on extra helpings of shin kicking.

The same rating system that helps me review movies and books also helps me decide whether they are interesting enough to buy.

My husband and I share our ratings with each other after watching movie trailers, "That will be a B movie". Then after we see the movie we often compare how we would change our keep our rating.

I treat my potential reads the same way- though in this case I'll typically read the back of the book blurb and the first and last pages (I know... I'm odd).

So... Here's My Review Rating System

Volcano image
photo credit: ierdnall via photopin cc
We can just tell a C movie by watching the previews, if it doesn't look like it will interest us then we typically won't buy them until they are in the super cheap bin. If I somehow watch a C movie in the theater- yeah I really regret wasting the money.

If the book back copy, first and last page don't interest me then I don't typically pick up these sorts of books to read.

If the book gave me a hard time following the story line, it barely interested me, or was really formulaic then you will earn yourself a C.

volcano image 2
photo credit: ierdnall via photopin cc

B movies I'd be much happier getting when they hit the stores- we might go see it in theaters if we have nothing else better to do.

These movies atleast strike our interest in previews.

If you manage to hold my interest, I can finish it, and it takes me on a fun journey without too many readability issues- then you earn yourself a B. I Typically don't read B books again, unless I am bored.

Volcano image 3
photo credit: ierdnall via photopin cc

'A' movies I WANT to watch in the movie theater and then also buy as soon as they hit the stores!

These are the movies that ROCK our socks off in previews!

These are the books that I can't put down, the ones that I want to read over and over again!

The most important thing about a book or movie?

The ending must be perfect for the story like- it is a make or break it, all or nothing experience! The ending should blow me away and leave me feeling satisfied.

See the thing is... when a book or movie starts out at as an A and then the ending totally doesn't 'do it for me' well, yeah, it sorta cuts the whole experience down a rating notch for me.

Am I the only one?

 Case in point.... the movie Pompeii.

I loved the movie! (Right up until the end.) 
It had everything I love about these types of movies, action, love interest, a bit of historical politics thrown in there, and a heart pounding destruction scene! One by one the characters get killed off- heck this is Pompeii, we all know what happens by now.

Right until the end- our main hero couple finally looks like they are going to get away! YAY! Then the horse bolts and they stand there to die. *groan*

I disliked that ending. However, the epicness of the movie was high enough that I didn't regret watching the movie. I probably won't buy it on DVD though. (Which is saying something because I happen to love collecting disaster/end of the world type movies. Because yes, I'm weird like that.)

As an author, bearing all this in mind, I see it as a major risk to go killing off your major characters at the end of the book when you have asked your readers (or in Pompeii's case- your viewers) to fall in love with them. If you are going to do so you better make sure the rest of the story is super, or that you left your readers with other favorite characters to keep loving in their dreams.

Walking Dead, for example, can get away with killing off the lovable Beth character simply because there are plenty of other characters that we will all show up next season for. Why? Because we love them too and want to watch their story play out.

The last book that disappointed me? Off the top of my head I'd have to say Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince- killing off Dumbledore almost made me not want to go back. I did, and I am glad I took that chance, but still- that was disturbing to sit with for an entire year. Risky J.K., risky!

Anyhow... what was the last movie or book you finished that started off as an A and then the ending just really left a sour taste in your mouth? Please share!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Speculating on Pectus Excavatum

"Its not just cosmetic..."

Well, the good news and the bad news- I'm sure you've noticed less and less of my posts lately, I've been a little distracted; researching and trying to help my 10yr old.

Apparently the motrin and now the steroids have not helped to bring my son's pain down. He's on his last day of his weeks worth of steroids and today he woke up at a pain scale of 7-8 this morning. I'm going to give him some motrin and hope it works enough for school. *sigh*

They are saying the pain is due to something called Costochondritis more due to the fact that they don't know what is causing his pain than anything else. It came on suddenly and without explanation.

What is Costochondritis?

Costochondritis is an inflammation of the cartilage joints in your chest. It is typically caused by a sudden increase in strenuous exercising, or 'over doing it'. You can also get it from bending, twisting, or lifting something sharply or in the wrong direction. Athletes have been known to get it from time to time.

However, with my son it is more than just the areas with cartilage that are hurting, and it started before any major PE stuff had started at school. His actual ribs hurt him all the way out to the sides.  Add in the constant pulling in of the rib cage due to what I can only assume is a growth spurt and you now have Pectus Excavatum that has turned from being just a cosmetic defect to something that now hurts worse than any pain he has ever had in his life.

To see this picture you can tell why!

Pectus Excavatum
Those aren't muscles or moobies- thats all rib cage!
Hint: its supposed to be flat.

This is the first time he has hurt this much this early in the morning- and yes the pain has been getting worse, even through all the restricted activity, motrin, icepacks, heating pads, and now a full week on steroids which were supposed to bring the inflammation down. We've been dealing with this pain since August of this year. He also doesn't have the stamina to participate in gym or sports like he did even just last year, instead he gets dizzy and feels like he has to gasp for breath. Frankly, the sudden and progressive severity of these symptoms, especially the pain, is what has me the most concerned. Thankfully we are scheduled for testing soon to get the pre op stuff set up.

What is Pectus Excavatum?

Pectus Excavatum is a disorder where the cartilage grows faster than it should and causes the rib cage to bow inward. Some of the more typical symptoms are shortness of breath and dizzyness upon exertion and chest pain. Others have difficulty swallowing, irregular heart beats, and even passing out in some cases. In most cases the heart is even pushed off into the left lung space or compressed by the sternum.

In order to figure out if you are a candidate to have Pectus Excavatum repaired you will need of a CT scan. From there they can determine the amount of space in your chest which they label the Haller index.  Anything over a 3.2 is considered severe enough to warrant surgery.

What kind of surgery?

The most common repair if you are symmetrical and anywhere from 8-14 yrs old (they prefer to get you before you stop growing) is the Nuss procedure. With this they make a small incision and slip a metal bar under your rib cage to push it out and brace it for 3-4 years. You will be in the hospital for almost a week (which seems to be the norm for any chest surgery).There is a lot of pain and a month long (or more in some cases) recovery time but the pain does go away. Some people continue to be a little tender in the area of the stabilizers on the side until the bar is removed.

 At the end of that 3-4 yr period they open that same small incision and slide the bar out, you get to go home the next day. You can find out more about the Nuss Procedure here where it was developed. 

If you are asymmetrical, or if you are older, than sometimes the Ravitch procedure is used. More on the Ravitch Procedure here.

 The surgery doesn't remove the root cause of the problem, which is the overgrowth of cartilage- it just sets the rib cage back out to encourage it to grow correctly again. Few doctors specialize in handling the effects of Pectus Excavatum and don't really know how to treat the symptoms or the root cause of the problem. Due to this, there have been rare cases where Pectus Excavatum has come back... even after surgery.

My child has Pectus Excavatum... now what?

First things first, ask for a CT scan if only to get a base number to keep an eye on as they get older.

Second, ask for a referral to a pediatric surgeon who specializes in chest wall repairs, specifically the Nuss and Ravitch procedures.

Take pictures for records

Preferably once a year in a dimly lit room- the shadows help show the depth of the issue. I've found the best pictures can be taken from the side angle when the child is laying flat on the floor. Angle the camera so that you can see the full side view of any flaring of the bottom of the rib cage, bring the camera up just enough so that you can see into the bottom of the indent. Allow shadow play to highlight the indent as you take your picture.

Bear in mind that while a picture may speak a thousand words the defect is often much worse under the surface. In my son's case, his skin stretches over and hides the deepest part of the defect.

Don't let them feel down about themselves

(Decide which approach will work best for your kid.)

*For us, we just didn't mention it very often and our son never really grew to think twice about it. In our case though he isn't around many other male children with his shirt off. We have him wear T-shirts to the beach because my kids burn easily, and any time he was in a pool it was only ever around family. In school they don't change in the locker rooms, and he is not in school sports yet that would require him to change at school. We have done recreational department baseball during the fall but all the kids wore their uniforms from home and never had to see each other shirtless.

*Your case could be completely different if your son has brothers or friends without Pectus Excavatum that may see him without his shirt on. To help alleviate the concerns over appearance I have noticed that some parents will help their child find a silver lining of sorts. Namely, using their indention as a snack holder or resting a cup in it for fun. The kids seem to enjoy this.

Now I know this is more of a personal post than the typical sci-fi related material that I normally post but it has come to my attention that Pectus Excavatum is not a very well known condition and I'd like to do my part to help.  I have yet to find an all inclusive website that compiles all the research and medical journals into one place but Google has been really helpful. There are also many groups on facebook that you can join where people are more than willing to share their stories and let you know what worked for them.

I'll be sure to keep you guys posted...
If you have any suggestions or questions I am all ears.

Friday, November 21, 2014

V.L. Jennings At Space Camp

Me- at spacecamp

I've been referencing my time at Kennedy Space Center Space Camp for the past two days on facebook that I figured it must be fate. Time to share a picture that rarely sees the light of day. Yours truly, V.L. Jennings at space camp- at the top of the shuttle simulator ladder.

I will always be so thankful to the people who run that place. I was 16 then and about two years outside of the camp age requirement. We were able to call the staff and get them to allow me to attend though. That was such an awesome vacation! I enjoyed it so much that there are numerous nods to KSC in Visionary From The Stars.

Besides the shuttle mission simulator we also had a chance to try various other simulators. We got to try moon walking, simulated climbing in "nearly zero gravity" (Its amazing what some counter weights can simulate!), and I also rode the G force simulator three times. The last time I almost got sick- I kid you not!

Another of my favorite moments was riding the bus beside the launch pad crawler and watching it crush the rocks beneath its HUGE plates as it rolled up the road.

I learned so much, took TONS of notes and I believe I took 5 rolls of film worth of pictures (yes, back before digital cameras were standard). Then that fannie pack you see in the picture... Well I had my last two days of film in there and my notes and left them all behind at a gas station on the way home. EPIC FACEPALM!

We went back to get it but someone had already wandered off with it. No money inside that I remembered... just undeveloped film and a mini notepad. (Really? Who steals film?)

I do still have a copy of the Camp KSC chant that one of the program leaders was said to have written. I love that song so much that I asked them for a copy of it before the camp ended- it STILL hangs in my kitchen (yeah, I am well aware that I am a nerd).

If I can get at least 10 comments on this blog post I will take a picture of it and post it here on my blog for you all to see- 20 comments and I will even sing it for you!

Have you ever been to Kennedy Space Center? What was your favorite part of your visit?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Expanding Your Brain With An Instrument

Guitar Sonata III
 photo credit: tamahaji via photopin cc

My post the other day was about the Mind vs. your Genes. Today I ran across a video that has shocked me and really made me reevaluate how I look at music!


I've always loved music. I taught myself how to read music and play the piano as a teen. I need to practice playing with two hands more, but I can play with my right-hand alright. My eldest, as you learned in my previous post, has a chromosomal deletion disorder called Di George syndrome. Due to this disorder the areas of visual, audio, and motor functions; short term and working memory;  Visual and auditory attention, are all functioning below where they should be. This is the way it is for MANY children affected with Di George syndrome!

However, if you exercise and stretch a weak muscle it gets stronger right? Low and behold, according to this video- the exact same areas that she is weakest in is the EXACT same areas -playing- a musical instrument works with! Take a look at the 'file system' in the video. She has that issue too! Many times she has learned something but just can't seem to find it in her head again. This is due to processing and recall issues.

Ok- so she's not going to be able to keep up with the faster music. She does ok with slower pieces but the time needed for her to read the note, process the information, and get it back down to her fingers (she plays the flute) is way to long for her to play faster pieces like marches.

Some tips we've been working with:

*Write the letter of all the notes above the actual notes- highlight key areas if you have to- this helps cut down on some of the processing time.

*Her math teacher suggested highlighting only certain notes within a song for her to concentrate on. The rest of the band will play the whole song but she only plays with them when her notes come up. This way she can still play but it lengthens the time between notes to give her a moment to process. (I am SO thankful for the teacher's suggestion on that one!)

*I've found it easier to cut out the "one and two and one and two" stuff- she doesn't get that. Instead, I clap out the beat and point to her on key notes when we are practicing.

This whole realization has been really encouraging to me- and I hope it is to you as well!

So- check the video out. If you have any instrument playing tips put them in the comments for us! And remember- Never stop exploring human potential, always reach for the stars!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Help Mouse Trap Crash The Super Bowl!

Video posted in an Iframe below ;)

Copyright Doritos

My hubby loves working with film shots. He found this contest online to create a Doritos commercial and the most voted will be aired during the superbowl. When he decided to film something to enter, who should he draft for his actors? Why me and our three yr old of course lolol. 

Come check it out - we are hoping it makes you laugh ;)

If you could... please vote and share everywhere you can! We appreciate all the help we can get!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Mind Vs. Genes

Otherwise known as Di George syndrome
I am a believer that we were all amazingly designed by God and have the potential to do big things. Sometimes the body's design ends up different than it should and that's ok. These people are still special and full of untapped potential if they put their minds to it AND if they have people around them willing to go the distance and help them figure out ways to work around their disorder.

Please consider sharing this ribbon to support DiGeorge Syndrome.

I have a child with this disorder and it affects many aspects of her personality and health. She has a bleeding disorder, a heart defect, and immune system issues. She was diagnosed with it early in regards to her health issues, but we didn't realize how vastly it affects her day to day life until school issues became overwhelming and we took her to a psychologist.  Many aspects of her personality had been 'brushed under the rug' until now. We were told by the school that she just wasn't paying attention, that she wasn't trying hard enough, that she didn't care, that she JUST needed to study/practice more. Many people were under the impression that she was just being difficult. Things use to be very confusing and frustrating until we realized that it all boils down to her DiGeorge syndrome. Thanks to the psychologist who actually took the time to research this disorder, we now know whats really going on.

She's not being difficult- its the way her mind and skills have developed due to the affects of the Di George syndrome. Now people are starting to realize that she can't just learn her way out of this. She has to be taught how to cope with and work around the underlying problem before she can... diagram a sentence or solve a math problem, for example. All the practice sheets, and all the 'reteaching' in the world can't help you if you are having problems processing what you are being asked to do in the first place. Tie in short term memory issues, sensory issues, attention issues, (among other things) and it is no wonder she's had so many problems in school.

I would like to point this out something else out though. Even though she has these issues she STILL has the potential to do big things; IF we can help her figure out how to work around the root of the problem first. She loves music. She may not be able to handle the faster pieces because of her processing deficiencies, but she can still play the flute and even keep up during the slower pieces. She's really responsible about keeping things tidy and she is really well behaved.

She even wants to be a teacher when she gets older!

 Her bleeding disorder has taken her to dangerously low levels, and still she kept trucking on till we dragged her in to be treated. Without a blood test, you would have never known because she learned to cope with it and work around it so well. She even has a high pain tolerance. When she was 11 she had her second open heart surgery, two days afterward she was up and walking, trying to ignore the fact that she had just had major surgery! The child who was once labeled as 'failure to thrive' and given a shortened life expectancy has now reached her teens!

Never give up! Always keep exploring and never stop reaching for the stars!

Parents of children with this disorder have to be constant advocates. Their children may look as though there is very little different about them, but the disorder can affect everything. For a breakdown of this disorder, visit 22q112-deletion-syndrome page on the Genetics Home Reference website.

If you or a loved one has this disorder I would love to connect with you.

Do you have an 'overcoming the odds' story about you or someone you know that you'd like to share? Tell us about it here or message me if you'd like to feature your story on my blog!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Rivi's Outfit- Almost Done!

Rivi's outfit- almost done!
WHEW! The sleeves are finally done! OH MY GOSH were they nerve wracking! They are by no means perfect, but its cosplay.

This will look so much better when it is ironed (there is NOT a seam running down the middle front, I promise) and when all the trim pieces are added on.

I'm debating on whether I should reveal the finished project online or whether I should make everyone wait to see it at the Novel Wine Tasting Arts and Literary Festival next Saturday. All those in favor of seeing it here on the blog as soon as I am finished- well... you better say so in the comments!

Some more good news this week. My publisher has given me clearance to start the book release tour again, Come on over to my friend Ali Lewis' blog on Monday to play a game for an extra entry into the Raffle!!

So to kick this tour off... How about a raffle!!!

You've probably noticed there is only one prize for right now- well, that's where you come in my dear friends. Get your friends to enter!

And- if you have something you would like to donate to the Raffle in exchange for a link of your choice to be added to the entry options feel free to head on over to the form on my book tour page and let me know! Your link could be to your facebook page- or maybe you'd just like some more comments on your blog! Would you like to pledge to help host me during my tour? You can pick your choices on that form as well!

At any rate, I really appreciate everyone's support! Remember... leave me a comment if you'd like to see the finished outfit before everyone else does!!

Also- if you'd really like to help- you could even share this photo!
Copy this link into the place where you upload your facebook cover if you'd like to help me get the word out by participating in the banner blast!

Facebook covers3 copy

Monday, October 6, 2014

Rivi's Cosplay Outfit Update 3

Rivi's outfit in the making
Its finally finished! The outer coat is finally finished- Rivi says its called an Akruv. All I know is that the trim was a beast to put on straight! It needs to be ironed, but I'll do all that once the whole project is done.

Next up is the inner piece that looks essentially like a dress, long sleeves on a one piece long dress. Nope, Rivi's shaking her head at me.

"It's actually called an Akrut."

"So the boy's clothes are the same?"

"Yep, except they are light and dark green."

Here's what I have so far on the 'Akrut'...


I've finished the back and shoulder seams... the side seams are pinned and ready for sewing. There's no sleeves and the collar isn't finished, but check back later if you'd like and I'll keep you posted. ;)

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Making Rivi's Costume For Cosplay 2

Rivi's Costume- Collar Troubles

The last time I blogged about the making of Rivi's costume I mentioned that I couldn't seem to get the inner collar pinned in properly in order to stitch it down. Every time I tried it ended up too short in some places or bunched up in others. I finally figured out a trick!

See those boxes there? Yup,
Still stuff to unpack from the
move lol.
I nabbed one of my minions to help! My youngest is 3... my eldest is taller, and a girl so she might have worked better, but the older two were both at school. So I called my youngest over and prayed he would stay still enough not to step on the hem.

He did, and I actually got the collar pinned in! It looked perfect! (and I had to nab a picture of him trying to figure it out.)
So I threw it through the sewing machine and even though it looked straight and lined up with the pins the inner collar and the outer shoulder seams are not lined up. The good news... no one will see the inner collar and it looked fine turned right side out so I left it just the way it was.

*facepalm* yup those are my toes and
my youngest's flip flop lol :P
I've hemmed the shoulders and cut up the crease in the center front. Now all I need to do is hem the sleeves, hem the front opening, and the bottom and then add the trim!

Want to see what it looks like when I'm done with this first part? Stay tuned! I'll keep you updated!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Speculation About Blog Readers

Blog Readers- Who Are You & What Do You Like

networked blogs
Networked Blogs

Hey I might be a blogger... But I'm a reader too. I read a LOT of blogs. Today I'm posting to introduce to you . I've been blogging and reading blogs for years. The number one thing that irritates me the most is when I am FORCED to sign into some social login thingy in order to leave a comment. It takes time- and what if I don't have any of their social sites? Well then dear blog owner, snooze you lose! This is why you will see that I have removed the google friend connect feature from my blog as well as google comments. It FORCED my readers to have a google sign in. LAME!

Along with that came the problem of considering how I would show and collect followers now. Sure- you could sign up with my feedburner option and have my blog sent to your device or e-mail. However, there is just one problem with that. I'M a blog reader and I dislike digging through my e-mail to find blog posts by my friends- and I also do not have a device that I would like to read all these blogs on.

In walks Networked Blogs! I LOVE this site. You can sign up for free. ANY blog that has networked blots enabled can be found through searching networked blogs or you can click on their networked blogs widget on their site to follow their blog. Whats so great about this? ALL the blogs that you follow appear on a dashboard so you never miss what any of your bloggers are posting! Its like facebook for blogs- but more organized!

See the green left and right arrows at the top right hand corner of the picture above? Those allow the blogs to slide sideways to show me the rest of the blogs on my list!

So if you read a ton of blogs- consider signing up for this website and telling your friends who blog to add their blogs too!

Never stop speculating about real world stuff- you might just figure out an answer to your problems!

* Did you know that making comments on a blog actually helps support that blog by increasing its google ranking? Maybe you didn't. But thats ok because I'm not here to bug you about all that. BUT- If you are a blogger and have added networked blogs to your site- drop me a link in your comment to this post and I will check your blog out!