An Interview with Author Diane Yates

I find that books are like potato chips – you can’t seem to stop with just one.  I feel the same way about their authors.  If you’re longing to add spice to life, ask someone where the writers meet!   Not every chip in the bag will suit your taste, but you’ll definitely experience a variety of flavors.  I’ve savored every moment I’ve spent with author Diane Yates.

Author Diane Yates

I met Diane through a series of coincidences.  I believe that’s what I’ve heard it called when God chooses to remain anonymous.  Smuffy happened to do some work for a friend of mine whom I hadn’t seen in years and happened to mention that I’d been writing a novel and my friend happened to mention that she had a writer friend who might be able to provide me with some good resources when it came time to publish and that friend just happened to be Diane Yates, author of “Pathways of the Heart”. 

Diane’s name didn’t ring a bell, but the captivating book title somehow did.  I suppose it had already been calling to me from bookstore shelves.  Let me introduce you to both of them. 

Gracious to her core, Diane took me under her wing, listening to my ramblings and assuring me that my story was worthy of being told.  Honest as well, she told me I needed to edit, edit, edit and polish, polish, polish.  Little did I know what that entailed when she said it.  She’s helped me more than I can express and I am grateful for it.  I went home from our first meeting with a copy of her book.

Pathways of the Heart

“Pathways of the Heart” is the story of Diane’s mother, Clella.  For all of us, life takes twists and turns, leading us at times into pleasant places and at others into frightening scenarios from which we long to escape or worse – a never-ending drudgery that leaves us feeling that it’s all for nothing.

Cella’s story is a memoir written as a novel and it couldn’t be more real or, shall we say, just plain human.  It’s as frustrating as it is touching with its genuine love story that keeps you hoping for the best and fearing the worst as you walk through life with this strong-willed woman in a time when women weren’t supposed to be.

Although there were ways that Clella’s story didn’t mirror my own mother’s story at all, there were certain strong similarities, including the time frame and general locale, that had me rooting for her, nudging her forward and shedding a tear for her as if she’d been my own mom, making it an emotional read.

I appreciated the way in which Diane related the story just as it was, piecing her own experiences together with accounts shared by her parents and other family members.

The common thread of “Pathways of the Heart” speaks to all of us that we all have hopes and dreams, we all fall far short of the ideal, we are all disappointed by those we love most and by ourselves and we all must find our way back to the right path.

Diane’s careful, yet candid, re-telling of real people making real mistakes is done in a way that makes “Pathways of the Heart” something that you can share with your teens without concern that it might be too graphic.

All in all, this story of a woman and her family, beginning in the Ozark hills of the 1920’s and leading you through the Great Depression, love, betrayal and on into new locations, joys, desperation and relationships, left me wanting to know more.

Diane is happy to oblige with the sequel, “All That Matters”, a book that takes us on a journey through the remainder of Clella’s life. 

All That Matters Book Cover

And now, a little about Clella’s daughter, Diane:

Diane Yates is a published author who lives in Fayette, Missouri with her husband, Rick, of forty-seven years.  She has three children and eight grandchildren.  Her first published works, “Pathways of the Heart” and its sequel, “All That Matters” are published by W&B Publishers.  Both these memoirs serve as tributes to her mother and touch the reader with the joys, struggles, heartbreaks and new beginnings.  You can look forward to Diane’s upcoming works of fiction. “Melissa’s Fate” is now being considered for publication while she continues work on “My Brother’s Eyes”.

Diane is semi-retired from a career in medical clinic practice management and is a past president of Ozarks Writers League. She is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Ozarks Writers League, Columbia Writers Guild, Boonslick Creative Writers, and Clean Fiction Writers.

I asked Diane several questions so we could get to know her better.

Barb:  Many things compel us as authors to write. Why do you write, Diane?

Diane:  My answer to this question remains consistent no matter how many times I answer it. I write to be read. I want my readers to laugh, cry, and rally for my heroes and heroines, and when they read the words “The End” and close the cover, nothing would please me more than if the book they’d finished would inspire them to be an even better person.

Barb:   Did you write stories or create characters as a child?  When and how did you begin?

Diane:  From the sixth grade, I wrote stories and skits that we acted out in school and the neighborhood.

Barb: Do you believe that, for you, writing is a gift or a calling?  What is your source of inspiration?

Diane:  Writing is both a gift and a calling for me. I pray about my work and God uses various avenues to inspire me.

Barb:  Do you have other creative outlets besides writing?

Diane:  I don’t draw or paint or sew. I have done crafty things, but I wouldn’t call them talented!

Barb:  Do you remember the first thing you wrote “just for fun”?

Diane:  In the second grade I wrote a story about my big brother. I drew a picture of him flexing his bicep, showing me how strong he was.

Barb:  Why did you decide to write Clella’s story as a memoir and not fiction?

Diane:  “Pathways of the Heart” is a tribute to an amazing woman, and it needed to be accurate with real names of family members. This story takes place about twelve miles from the home of an elderly Laura Ingalls Wilder where she read her stories to my siblings.

Barb:  Most of this story takes place before you were born.   Do you feel like you were able to tell it factually? 

Diane:  My mother and siblings told me all these stories over and over. They were corroborated by my aunts, uncles, and cousins. Other facts and details were verified by county records and historical societies.

Barb:  How did you fairly examine both of the main characters without apparent judgment?

Diane:  Mine is not to judge Kenneth or Clella. It’s easy to walk down the aisle and say “I do.” But then, life happens, and in their case, that life included the Great Depression. Their relationship is the picture of what can happen as a result of neglect. Marriage takes work. Don’t let the love you found slip away in the hustle and weariness of everyday life. 

Barb:  Clella’s story covers a whole lifetime!  How did you choose what details to put in and what to leave out?

Diane:  I didn’t exactly outline, but I did make a list of all the stories I felt needed to be included; the adventures, mishaps, tragedies, and heart-wrenching events that were pivotal to the pathways they chose.

Barb:  “All That Matters” is the continuing story. Why was it not part of the first book?

Diane:  I only ever intended to write Clella’s story from 1928 through 1957, which is the time era at the end of Pathways. After it released, I started hearing from readers that they wanted to know the rest of the story. I prayed and eventually decided to write “All That Matters”, which continues Clella’s story as well as my own. Both books span an era of almost a hundred years and are a testament to the strength, courage, and character of the people whose lives touched one another.

Barb:  I know as soon as I closed the last page on “Pathways…”, my first thought was, “and then what happened?”  How is the sequel different and how is it the same as the first?

Diane:  The first book is a little bit of Little House on the Prairie meets The Bridges of Madison County.  Clella’s true grit and resourcefulness help her provide for her family during difficult times. She struggles to remain faithful after being abandoned by her husband, but a chance meeting with a younger man complicates her life in ways she never imagined. It is a book of choices and speaks to the importance of marriage and family.  “All That Matters” is a book about consequences. It begins amid the craze of Rock’ n’ Roll and travels through many destinations and problematic events. We all have things that are important to us, but in the end, these characters must examine the reality of what really matters.

Barb:  Since then, you’ve written a novel.  Tease us with the plot!

Diane:  My first two books are memoir, but my passion is fiction. “Melissa’s Fate: The Untold Story” is my third work and is currently being considered for publication. When Beth, an accounting assistant, discovers that Phil Davis is actually Phil Drake, the president of the company where she works, and he is in love with someone else, she flees New York City without telling anyone she’s pregnant. Two years later, she must return and recruit his help to rescue their little girl whom she had placed for adoption. Sparks fly as Phil will not forgive Beth, but he’ll do anything to save his little girl. They must both put aside their own feelings and marry in order to win custody of Melissa. Danger lurks as they fight each other, the difference between their two worlds, and a love long denied. While Beth knows that success and wealth are measured by more than material things and money, Phil is learning that he can’t always be in control despite his position and wealth. New York City and rural Connecticut are the setting of this story. My husband and I flew into LaGuardia and visited New York before driving on to Connecticut and the covered bridge at West Cornwall. I couldn’t have picked a more idyllic setting for this book.

Barb:  I love the story line!  Tell us about your current work-in-progress.

Diane:  I’m working on “My Brother’s Eyes”, which is set in the Minnesota Territory in the middle of the nineteenth century. Maggie and her father nurse back to health a wounded Indian brave they found in the field. Only after Maggie falls in love with the Indian brave, Nahkeetah, does she realize that their relationship is plagued by more than cultural differences. It is surrounded by danger and evil. Maggie’s father is the country doctor; Nahkeetah’s father is the chief of the Chippewa tribe. Nahkeetah is next in line to be chief. Can their love survive the prejudice of his people and a hatred that boils beneath the surface?

Barb:  Ooh! Love versus hate – now that’s drama! I can tell you keep busy.  Are your family/friends supportive of your writing and do they ever fear being “put in a book”?

Diane:  I’ve already put my family and friends in my books! I love all of them. My husband’s support and encouragement are endless and a tremendous blessing to me.

Barb:  Have you ever found yourself falling in love with or being frightened/shocked/surprised by a character you’ve created?

Diane:  I love my protagonists – all of them! They are each different. Beth from “Melissa’s Fate” is down-to-earth, loves a simpler way of life, despises money and those that are driven by it, including Phil, the man she inadvertently falls in love with. Maggie, in “My Brother’s Eyes”, is gutsy, smart, willing to take on difficult tasks and face odds that are seemingly unsurpassable in the Minnesota Territory of 1857. She must fight like crazy to overcome the hate that is in her native brother’s eyes, but she will prevail because of the love she has for the son of a Chippewa tribal chief. But, the character I love most of all is my first character ever – my mother, Clella, in “Pathways of the Heart” and “All That Matters”. None of us are perfect, but in real life she was a picture to me of the Proverbs 31 woman. Also, it surprised me that when I wrote about the men in her life, Kenneth and Francis, I was able to empathize and see things from their perspective, which of course was what needed to happen.

Barb:  What would you say to someone who wants to write, but either doesn’t know where to start or perhaps thinks no one would want to read what they’ve written?

Diane:  It’s rare that a writer knows where to start. You just have to start. You can go back later and rearrange or revise the writing. Some people write and don’t want anyone to read it. I write to be read. Will others want to read what you write? There’s no way to know until you first write it, so get started!

Barb:  So, a person says, “OK, I’ve written it – now what?”  What are the first steps they should take if they want to be published?

Diane:  Take your writing seriously. Join with other writers in groups to get connected and network. Let your manuscript rest and then go back and edit, edit, edit. Then, consider hiring a professional editor. It’s money well spent.  

Barb:  Have you ever dealt with rejection or delays with publishers and how do you handle it (or how have you learned to handle it)?

Diane:  So, after all the edits, you’re ready to submit to agents or publishers. Prepare yourself for rejections. You will get them, lots of them. Everyone does. There are many reasons why your writing might be rejected and it may not mean that your writing is bad. You may have submitted to an agent that doesn’t represent the type of story you’ve written. If you’ve written a romance and that agent is having more success with mysteries, then the agent might not choose your romance at that time. Remember, publishing is about business and money; what is selling, what is not, the current trends, etc.  

Barb:  How do you connect with other writers?  How vital is that?  Would you recommend beginners join writers groups and/or attend writing conferences?  Give the wannabes your best advice!

Diane:  Yes, yes, yes! It is extremely vital. Whatever stage your writing is at, there is always something else to learn. Writers groups and attending conferences are a necessity, not only for education but for networking, and opportunities to meet industry professionals like literary agents and publishing editors.

Barb:  You’re talking about literary agents and publishing editors.  These are the people writers have to face in order to “pitch” or promote the idea of their book for publication.  For most people, the very idea brings them closer to pitching their lunch than their book!  Give us a glimpse of what that was like for you when you started out.

Diane:  I remember the first time I pitched to an agent. He was from the William Morris Agency in New York and was the agent for a published author in a writers’ group I had joined. I was so nervous I couldn’t complete a coherent sentence! Heat rose in my face and my palms were sweating. What saved me was he had asked for ten manuscript pages to be sent to him before he arrived. According to the published author, when the agent got off the plane, he had my pages in his hand. “I want to meet this lady,” he told him. So, after my interview and me fumbling my words, he asked for my complete manuscript and told me what he liked was that I hooked him from the first paragraph.

The second time I pitched a manuscript. I was at a writers’ conference and I had several appointments to pitch to literary agents and publishers. I had heard that I needed to be able to explain my book in one to two short paragraphs, called an elevator pitch. That’s easier said than done! I hadn’t been able to figure them out. My first appointment time arrived and I met with a publisher. I couldn’t talk, couldn’t complete a coherent sentence, but I tried to explain my book. My palms were sweating and my heart was pounding. He didn’t seem interested, so I finished with, “but, it’s a really good book!” I think he felt so sorry for me because he gave me his card and asked for the first three chapters. That was my only interview that night. I knew before I went into the next one tomorrow, I needed to have my elevator pitch down. I went back to my room by myself and worked until four in the morning. I finally gave up, prayed and told God I was leaving it to him, and went to sleep. At six o’clock I awoke with the words flooding into my mind. I knew I needed to get up and write those words down right then. I did and the rest of my appointments went much better with several requests for the manuscript.

Barb:  Thanks so much for giving us a glimpse into your life and your books! How can readers contact you?

Diane:  I love to hear from readers. My email is Diane@DianeYates.com. They can visit my website at www.DianeYates.com and go to the contact page. I, also, welcome readers to follow me on my  social media sites:

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Diane.Yates.54

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/booksbyDiane/

Twitter @dianedyateshttps://twitter.com/dianedyates

Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/author.dianeyates/

I hope you enjoyed getting to know Diane and I hope that her thoughts and experiences inspire any of you who have a story burning within you that is waiting to be told.

Good Reads by Diane Yates

To purchase books by Diane Yates, simply click “BUY  NOW” on her website and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon.  They are also available from Barnes & Noble here.

Visit her blog at Diane’s Ponderings for more from Diane Yates.

To hear a more detailed audio interview with Diane, click here.

I’ve shared some thoughts about my own mom here on the blog. You can see some photos and get to know her a little better here.

In the mood for short stories? Be sure to read about my “Life With Smuffy” and be ready for more smiles when you enjoy the stories on my “Laugh” page.

Questions? Comments! I’d love to hear from you, so please give me your thoughts.

Curly Girl Hair Products – The Struggle is Real

Now that I have taken you into my confidence with “Confessions of a Curly Girl” and have embarrassed myself beyond measure by releasing photos that probably ought to have been burned, let’s tackle the real dilemma. What’s a girl to do without spending a fortune on products that end up in the trash because they make you look like a Kansas tumbleweed?

Who is this mysterious, wild-haired woman from my past?  She still haunts me.

Unknown Wild Woman www.midweststoryteller.com

I’ve done it all. Moan with me if you’ve ever slept on juice cans or cut-up potato chip cans. Ever wrapped your wet hair around your head, securing it with long clips only to wake up in the morning with your hair still wet and creases to mark the placement of every clip?   Ever had Big Sister or a friend comb segments of hair over the ironing board and smooth each one with a steam iron? A few tips on this: Choose a steady-handed operator, sit still, and make sure the iron is on a low setting!

I shy away from salon-trained personnel. Too many have sent me home in tears. Two objects, if wielded in my presence, still send me into fight or flight mode – thinning scissors and razors. Curly Girls – don’t go there!

Stylists with straight hair don’t understand the “spring factor” or the fact that different areas of your scalp are producing different degrees of curl. The top of my hair is curlier than the rest. If the top isn’t left longer, the spring factor goes into effect and I come off as Eunice, as played by Carol Burnett here.

Hair products pose another problem. I tried everything to tame and condition my dry and brittle hair, the result of endless efforts to get it to behave using dryers, irons, hot rollers – you name it.  My attempts left me bearing a marked resemblance to the poor soul in Shakespeare’s Hamlet who, should he hear the frightful tale, find that his once knotted and combined locks were to part and each particular hair to stand on end like quills upon the fretful porpentine.  I’ve had my share of porpentine days.

Around ten years ago, I spotted a woman across a crowded room who changed my life. We Curly Girls can tell the difference between a perm and natural curl in a nanosecond and hers was the real deal. However, each curl, smooth and defined, remained separated from its neighbor in a way that I can only describe as a masterpiece of style. I decided she would be my friend whether she liked it or not.

She knew the struggle. We dove into a hair discussion as though we were veterans sharing war stories. She made two recommendations.  I pass them on to you now with alll the urgency I can muster.

Firstly, order the “Curly Girl Handbook” from Amazon. No kidding. This is a guide you need. It’s written by Lorraine Massey, whose hair is curlier than mine. Her chain of salons in New York cater to Curly Girls and she’s developed a line of products that do what we’ve all been longing for – tame, de-frizz, and define those curls.

Inside, you’ll find a DVD that is a must-watch in order for you to get a grasp on the instructions outlined in the book. It’s difficult for most of us to wrap our brains around leaving a lot of product in our hair. Didn’t our mothers tell us to rinse all that stuff out? This technique may not work with other products, but it works with her line.

Here are the products I’ve been using for years now. You can find them at Ulta or at a Deva Hair Salon near you.

Deva Products www.midweststoryteller.com

Secondly (and this is so important), find an actual, for-real, bona fide Deva salon and get your hair cut there by a stylist who has been trained by the Deva professionals.

Deva haircuts are a whole new ballgame. Rather than having your hair combed out and cut while stretched, each individual curl is cut while curly.  The cuts I got at Frontenac Salon in St. Louis not only changed the whole look of my hair, but they also trained me in using the products as well. You’re thinking this sounds expensive, but it isn’t. The cost covers cut, No-Poo (because there’s no poo in theirs), style and cut (yes, they always cut it twice before you leave).  I found it to be a bargain considering that you’ll only be going three times a year. Yep! They train you in how to maintain your cut in between times!

Deva also makes a nice travel set so that you can try the products. The bottles sizes comply with TSA regulations and a microfiber hair towel is included because you’ll discover that you’ll never want another terry cloth towel to touch your head again. An old T-shirt also works well to keep from ruffling up your “do”.

Deva Travel Set www.midweststoryteller.com

I’m sure your travel set will look a little spiffier than the one in the photo.  Mine has accompanied me on many a journey.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I’m about to share with you some issues that I’ve had with hair loss. Though I have always been an extreme “shedder” and I haven’t noticed an increase with the use of Deva products, I have done an online search and have found several folks who feel it has been an issue for them. I may take a brief hiatus (though I hate to do so) just to see if I notice any differences.  Do your own experimenting and research – you’ll know best what works for you.

Concerning hair loss, let me just say that to minimize this problem is just plain wrong. Much of our identity and self-worth is tied to how we feel about our face and hair. One survey showed that when people were asked what they noticed first when meeting a new person, it was a toss-up between hair and shoes!

As I shared in “It’s Not the Heat, It’s the Humidity: Confessions of a Curly Girl”, I had to deal with hair loss through chemo years ago. It was no badge of courage for me. I had recurrent dreams about hair the whole time. I dreamed about my hair and everybody else’s for months. It returned in time, curls and all, and I’ve never wished my curls away since.

There are other things besides chemo, however, that can take away your hair. A few years ago, after burning my candle at both ends for too long a time, I fell into Stage 3 Adrenal Fatigue. When my body ran out of its much needed cortisol, everything else crashed along with it – thyroid and just about every hormone on the list.

I am not your doctor and cannot advise you, but I will tell you from personal experience that adrenal fatigue is real, there are lab tests for it, I have faithfully followed my doctor’s treatment and it has worked!

I lost a lot of hair. Since I’d already been there, done that and gotten my T-shirt at the Relay for Life, I had no intention of letting this get to the point of no return. Curls became a blessing as their fluff enabled me to hide how much hair I’d lost. There were tears – lots of them!

If you have hair loss, stop attributing it to age or other factors that you think are just part of life. Something can be done. See a doctor specializing in functional medicine who knows how to check your blood work, thyroid, adrenals and hormones in ways that “regular” doctors do not. Get some answers because the answers are out there!  Don’t be afraid to ask what else can be done.

When my adrenals, thyroid and other hormones began to return to normal levels, I told my doctor that I wanted to get more aggressive in speeding up the return of my hair. She recommended these supplements from Elon Essentials and I can’t say enough good things about them.

Elon Products www.midweststoryteller.com

I take a capsule daily and apply the serum every morning to the areas where I’ve noticed the most thinning. This is a slow process as you wait through several shedding cycles, but I’ve gotten a lot of hair back throughout the two years I’ve been using it.

Curly Girls, may your days be filled with low humidity, definition and zero-frizz! May you have glorious curls and plenty of them! My former tumbleweed now looks healthy and defined while I’m waiting for more of my volume to return.

Curls...Glorious Curls! www.midweststoryteller.com

“Like”, “share” and “pin” this post to share with your fellow Curly Girls. Leave a comment – How about sharing a bit about your life as a Curly Girl?

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First Friday Freebie: Happy New (and Simplified) Year!

Happy New Year, Everyone! It seems impossible that we’ve already breezed through Christmas and landed in 2018. I knew this particular First Friday Freebie would sneak up on me and it did!

Don’t you love gifts that come with explanations? We were discussing at Christmas how it seems all our gifts come with some sort of novel-length explanation. So, now let me explain –

You may at first think that I’m too exhausted from the holidays to think of something better or that I’m just plain unimaginative (or cheap), but I wanted to introduce you to something life-changing.

You know what I mean – one of those small things in life that make all the difference and make you wonder how you ever lived without it – like Velcro on toddlers’ shoes, plastic wrap, duct tape and cooking spray.

While preparing the post on 50 Ways to Make 2018 a Better Year, I considered what I might offer as January’s Freebie to help out with that. Then, I remembered that innocent looking little sample package that arrived in the mail a few years ago.

I gave it a shrug and tossed it in my desk drawer. I’d seen Post-it Notes before. These seemed to be some new-fangled version and I wasn’t about to throw free stuff away. I knew 3M made the kind that pull apart from opposite ends and the ones that are super-sticky. These, apparently, had taken sticky down yet another avenue.

Later, when I’d finished up the pad I was using, I got them out and discovered that I’d been keeping something fabulous in hibernation in that desk drawer. That’s why I’m offering them as this month’s First Friday Freebie –

Full Adhesive Post-Its www.midweststoryteller.com

Full Adhesive Post-it Notes!

These are one of my favorite finds. Well, I suppose you’d say they found me! And, I’m giving away a full pack – not a sample.

(The ones in the photo are my open pack. The ones I’m giving away are due to arrive soon – yes, the January Freebie did sneak up on me.) The Freebies will be in yellow as I tried to pick something neutral for you.

What did we do before Post-it Notes anyway? Run around with fuzzy rolls of tape in our pockets?

Once I began to use these, the possibilities became endless. I stopped ruining storage boxes with marker pens – I just changed the note and because of the full adhesive, they actually stayed on and didn’t curl! I started using them to label cardboard boxes, plastic tubs, bottles, jars and plates of goodies. They adhere wonderfully, and best of all, come off cleanly when you want them to. Bookplates! They’re perfect for that! I no longer have to “ugly up” the nice boxes in my basement shelves of upstairs closets or pull them all out to see what’s inside. Use two sheets! On one, list the general heading in large print. On the other, list the individual contents.

There are lots of other removable labels out there – even nifty chalkboard ones – but they are way too pricey for marking storage boxes and other things that require temporary or alterable labels.

Consider these to be regular Post-it Notes in REVERSE! The adhesive covers the whole back of the note except for a narrow strip at the bottom (or top, if you prefer)edge, giving you a way to grasp it for removal.

Don’t scoff – you’re gonna love these things more than Velcro! BONUS: They also come in “super-sticky”, making the world practically perfect in every way.  The 3M Company isn’t messing around when it comes to its sticky business.  Under the Post-It section of their web site, you’ll find over 300 choices when searching for the perfect note!

You may have a little trouble finding them in your typical discount stores. Staples carries them, but being a bargain hunter, I order mine from Amazon.com here. They’re great for filling in your order for free shipping.

The “Freebie Rules” have changed recently to make it easier for you to win, so read on, SUBSCRIBE and share this post with all your friends so they can enter also. A winner will be chosen at random from those subscribers who enter today by leaving a comment which says, “I’ll take the notes!”

And now, here are the revised rules.

  1. First Friday Freebies are available to SUBSCRIBERS ONLY. That means if you have come to this post through social media or someone has emailed you a link to it and you haven’t become a subscriber yet, you’ll need to hop on over to the right sidebar and do that really quick. If you are on a phone or tablet, the easiest way is to go to the “About Me” page. All it means to be a subscriber is that you’ll receive an email each time Midwest Storyteller has something new, which won’t likely be more than once or twice a week. It keeps you from missing out on all the fun and FREE STUFF! And, I’m not sharing your emails with anybody.
  2. IMPORTANT: After subscribing, you MUST check your email to confirm the subscription or it will not appear. Then, sadly, you won’t be eligible to enter.
  3. To enter the drawing, scroll back up to the top of this post and under the title, click on “Leave a Comment”. Subscribers who comment as directed before midnight on Friday will enter the drawing, provided they are already on the subscribers list and live within the continental United States.

Three simple steps!

Now hurry! Go! Go! Go! Subscribe, Confirm and Enter before midnight tonight, January 5th

Did you miss the last Freebie?  Check it out here.  Don’t forget to “Share” and “Pin” and by all means, “Leave a Comment”.  Share the nifty-est “life-changing” thing you’ve discovered.

First Friday Freebie: Because There’s a Nip in the Air – Somewhere.

Only 24 more days till Christmas! How exciting! In case you’re having a difficult time with all the suspense, keep in mind that there are 0 – yes, ZERO – days until the First Friday Freebie. That’s right! You get to open this package today!

Mystery Freebie December 2017 www.midweststoryteller.com

It’s December and there’s a nip in the air – somewhere. Strangely, it’s not happening yet in our part of the Midwest. We seem to be getting someone else’s weather. The scary part is – someone else might be getting ours! I chose this gift for you with the hope of keeping you warm and cozy while you’re out and about finishing (or starting – breathe, just breathe) your Christmas shopping. It’s unseasonably warm here, but in this neck of the woods, that could change drastically in a matter of…say, 30 minutes?

Oh, come on! Don’t scroll at such a snail’s pace, like Great-Aunt Fannie trying to save the paper – rip it off and take a peek.

Freebie EchoTouch Gloves www.midweststoryteller.com

These EchoTouch ladies’ gloves “keep your hands warm while you keep in touch”. It seems that most everyone (excluding Smuffy) carries a smart phone these days. Though we enjoy the amazing technology that lets us navigate its depths with a tap or swipe of a finger, there’s that annoying fact that it can’t be done with gloves on! A few years ago, I received a pair of touch gloves as a gift and I’m hooked! I always seem to have cold hands and this helps me use my phone when I’m out and about without the hassle of taking my gloves on and off all the time. I find myself avoiding the “old style” gloves now in favor of this great invention.

Another problem with gloves, in a general sense, is keeping track of them. Although I don’t want to be seen running around like a toddler with a string running through my coat sleeves, it sometimes seems like a plan. If all the gloves I’ve lost were scraped from the parking lots upon which I’ve scattered them and were then placed end-to-end… Oh, never mind – back to the FREE gloves!

This neutral heather-gray pair of gloves are a Size LARGE. While I don’t consider myself to have large hands, I do have long fingers, so this is the size that always works for me. Not your size? They’ll make a great gift. And to all you guys out there – I know what your doing and the stores will be empty by the time you get finished doing it. Win the gloves and at least she’ll have something.

Similar gloves retail on the Echo web site for $39.00. (You have no idea how tempted I am to keep these for myself!) You can check out there other styles here.

The “Freebie Rules” have just changed to make it easier for you to win, so read on, SUBSCRIBE and share this post with all your friends so they can enter also. A winner will be chosen at random from those subscribers who enter today by leaving a comment which says, “I love the gloves!”

And now, here are the revised rules.

  1. First Friday Freebies are available to SUBSCRIBERS ONLY. That means if you have come to this post through social media or someone has emailed you a link to it and you haven’t become a subscriber yet, you’ll need to hop on over to the right sidebar and do that really quick. If you are on a phone or tablet, the easiest way is to go to the “About Me” page. All it means to be a subscriber is that you’ll receive an email each time Midwest Storyteller has something new, which won’t likely be more than once or twice a week. It keeps you from missing out on all the fun and FREE STUFF! And, I’m not sharing your emails with anybody.
  2. IMPORTANT: After subscribing, you MUST check your email to confirm the subscription or it will not appear. Then, sadly, you won’t be eligible to enter.
  3. To enter the drawing, scroll back up to the top of this post and under the title, click on “Leave a Comment”. Subscribers who comment as directed in the post before midnight on Friday, December 1, 2017 will enter the drawing, provided they are already on the subscribers list and live within the continental United States.

Three simple steps!

Now hurry! Go! Go! Go! Subscribe, Confirm and Enter before midnight tonight!

Want to see some past Freebies and their winners?  Take a peek here and here.

The Rose Leaf Project

I promised in the earlier post, “Creativity Unhampered”, that I’d return to my flight of fancy concerning my new discovery – Triple Thick. I suppose it may have been sitting on the shelf in Hobby Lobby for years, but I never knew it. Now, I’m giddy with possibilities.

Triple Thick www.midweststoryteller.com

After using it to restore my mom’s vintage clothes hamper, I wondered how it might work on various objects. Check out the hamper restoration here.

Rose leaves, partially decayed and plastered all over my porch after wind and rain, offered an interesting experiment. With nothing left between their veining, they looked like tan lace. I salvaged a few, pressing them between paper towels and flattening them with a heavy book.

I’d like to point out here that I exercised a great amount of restraint in getting started. My very nature called out to me to collect about five hundred of these beauties, because what if the experiment turned out to be the greatest thing I’d ever done! I reigned in the urge, for once, counseling myself that it could also be the biggest flop I’d ever wasted time and energy on. Forcing myself to keep it simple, I reasoned that Hobby Lobby had more supplies and that the bushes would lose their leaves again next year.

Once dry and flat, I spread my perfect lace leaves out onto a piece of paper to paint.

Dried Rose Leaves www.midweststoryteller.com

Now for color. I wasted some brain-time on this. Somewhere during my twelfth trip around the mulberry bush, I decided that it didn’t matter -they just needed color. Spray paint seemed the best idea. None of my leftover colors, however, seemed like anything I could tolerate, even as a test. I’m sensitive that way, you know.

So, I raided Smuffy’s paint stash and came out with chrome automotive paint. Why not? I rather liked the result. I let them dry before turning them over, giving the other side a silver coating as well.

Chromed Rose Leaves www.midweststoryteller.com

Next step: Triple Thick! I could have brushed it on, as I did with the hamper lid, but my curiosity tempted me to see what happened if I dipped them, giving them a thicker, sheeted coating. But then, how to let the very wet things dry once both sides were wet? Hmmmm… I had a brainstorm. (Now, don’t be a smarty-pants and ask me, “What with?”) Placing waxed paper in a cardboard box and up the side, I secured it by sticking straight pins through from the outside. These would provide “hangers” for my leaves while the waxed paper caught the drips.

BONUS: I didn’t find Triple Thick to be overly smelly.

DRAWBACK: The leaves were extremely thin, and doing a complete dip got them extremely wet, so some of them did tend to curl a little. 

Triple Dipped Rose Leaf www.midweststoryteller.com

Follow the instructions for drying time. I had lots of other things to do, so I probably waited half a day between re-dipping. My leaves got dipped three times. I suppose you could do as many coats as you like.

If you wanted to do this to a larger object, you would either paint the Triple Thick on with a brush or pour it into a shallow tray for dipping. The tray would need to have an airtight lid to keep it from drying out between times.

The results of my experiment? I’m rating it a success!

I know some of you have keen powers of observation and are wondering why there are fewer leaves in some photos than others.

I went to the basement to gather my leaves that had been drying on a large piece of paper on the floor. They were missing. So was the paper. I’ve lived with Smuffy for a long time, so instead of assuming that I had lost all my marbles or taken up sleep-walking, I went straight to the source and asked him what happened. He informed me that, assuming the whole thing to be trash, he’d wadded it all up and put in the garbage can. Sighing, I dove in, muttering something along the lines of, “If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard…” Yes, Smuffy is a tidy man. A very tidy man. Anyhow, in the process, there were casualties.  Another one got stuck to the sleeve of my sweater and came out the worse for wear. I ended up with four. See? I knew I should have collected five hundred!

The leaves came out slick, glossy and slightly bendable. And, I might add – nifty! While I was finishing this post, I also discovered that Triple Thick comes in a spray!  Here we go again…

I began to think how I might use the leaves. Here are some ideas –

Rose Leaf Ideas www.midweststoryteller.com

I’d love your ideas! Comment and let me know if there are any items that might otherwise be too fragile to keep that you are thinking about preserving with Triple Thick.

One last instruction – When you finish your project, remove the waxed paper from the cardboard box and peel away the dried puddles of Triple Thick. While not half as much fun as dancing on bubble wrap in bare feet, it does offer about ten seconds of entertainment for those of us not ashamed to indulge our inner child.

Speaking of children, I think Triple Thick has possibilities for all sorts of projects with your kids.

Next up: Smuffy’s back! SUBSCRIBE, so you don’t miss “Life with Smuffy: (Episode 2) Smuffy Takes The Cure” (or, “Think You’re Invincible?…Don’t Bet On It!)

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A Store You Can Go NUTS Over!

Throughout the week preceding Christmas, several packages arrived. Most of their return addresses revealed at a glance whether I needed to stash them in my hiding place or put them beside Smuffy’s chair and pretend I’d never seen them. I’m no peeker. Really, I’m not!

Smuffy came in for lunch one day, carrying another he’d found on the porch. I looked at the return address, which read, “Mariani Nut Company”. I’d never heard of the place. For a split-second, I considered giving Smuffy the stink eye. Had he seen “Christmas Vacation” one too many times and decided to enroll me in the Nut-of-the-Month Club? No, he would’ve hidden the box and given to me on Christmas Day. Perhaps someone else had done it. Now that I could handle! I love nuts!

I opened the box. It contained a bag of Mariani walnuts and a letter.

It may sound silly to offer a review of one’s grocery store, but I believe in giving credit where credit is due. Our favorite place to stock up had surprised us with a gift!

Aldi StoreAlmost every week, we stop by our nearest Aldi. I’ve shopped Aldi for a long time. I could always count on coming out of Aldi with that warm and fuzzy “trunkload feeling”, knowing that if I’d spent the same amount anywhere else, my purchases would fit into two paper grocery bags. Their quality is excellent.  Over time, they’ve continued to expand their variety and their brands.  There are usually only a few items from my weekly shopping list that I may have to pick up somewhere else. More recently, they’ve expanded their line of organic and/or gluten-free items. Fabulous!

For years and years, I tried to get Smuffy to go to Aldi with me. He always found an excuse to drive on by. Once, however, with gas prices soaring, he stopped a time or two to avoid a second trip. Now, Smuffy’s hooked. If I go without him, he becomes a little dejected. I think their upgrades, and the fact that he made a few trips to other stores and came out reeling with sticker shock, turned the tide.

How wonderful can a grocery store be, you ask?

Since I’ve made some changes in the way I eat, walnuts have become a frequent snack. I’ve always liked walnuts, especially in my oatmeal. Now, I seem to nibble away at them all the time. Anyhow, I picked up my usual bag of Southern Grove walnuts at Aldi last fall and discovered them to be “different”. While I can’t say they fell into the category of “rancid”, they definitely fell short of the required standard – nothing you’d notice in a recipe – only if you ate them by themselves. I passed it off, thinking it was just that one bag or shipment.

However, the next bag seem to have the same “something” about it. I must be a loyal shopper, or a little slow, because I bought another one. Same issue.

I found the phone number on their web site and called Aldi – not to fuss – only to let them know that that they needed to be aware. They were friendly and apologized for my issues, stating their satisfaction guarantee. All you ever need to do is return your leftovers with packaging and they’ll replace them them with other products.

I thanked them, re-stating that I only wanted them to know about the issue so they could correct it, because I love their store. We never discussed them sending me anything.

So, not only had they offered me their usual satisfaction guarantee, they’d now sent me this letter along with another  bag of nuts!

Courteous Mariani Letter

I’m not sure where the connection comes in between the Mariani nuts and Aldi. The only walnuts I’ve ever seen in their stores have been the Southern Grove brand. However, I found the Mariani to be fresh and tasty. Here they are, along with the letter, next to my mini blender and knife set, both of which I purchased at Aldi.

Aldi ListensThe non-food items offered at Aldi seem to be of excellent quality for the price. We’ve purchased quite a few of these over the years and have been pleased with the items, which include a body-fat scale, convection toaster oven, bluetooth wireless speaker and a digital food scale.

Check out Aldi at their website. If you don’t have one in your hometown, contact them and invite them to move in. When we travel and try to stock our vacation kitchen in an Aldi-less town, we’re always reminded of how blessed we are to have one nearby.

Here’s our most recent Aldi haul – all of which we brought home (after tax) for around $106. See my wonderful produce, organic coconut oil, organic salsa and healthy cheeses? See Smuffy’s ice cream, processed meats and the rest of his junk food? Just thought I’d better clarify matters in case my doctor sees this post!

Latest Aldi Haul

Aldi, based in Germany, was started by the Albrecht family. Founded in 1913, Aldi has become a huge, worldwide grocery chain.

So, by now you know, I’m nuts about my grocery store! I mean, really, they sent me a Christmas present!  At least, it felt like one.

Seems we always hear people talk about their disgruntling shopping experiences. Maybe it’s time to share the good ones.

Questions? Comments? Any places you’ve shopped that really showed you they were made of the right stuff?