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Monday, November 30, 2015

Things We've Learned From The First Full Month Of The NBA #NBA #Cavs #Basketball

Things We've Learned From The First Full Month Of The NBA #NBA #Cavs #Basketball

All Pictures Courtesy of the NBA and its teams and affiliates unless otherwise noted.

Surprise! Here some of you regular readers probably thought my last post for the month of National Blog Posting would be on blog posting or my NaNoWriMo progress. While I thought about both of those, I couldn't in good conscience do that knowing that I still had work to do on my book, and write my last post about completing the challenge felt too meta and like a cheat (yes, I could write previous post on NaBloPoMo but not the last one. So, I focus on another topic I'd like to discuss, the NBA.

Through to the afternoon of November 30th, the NBA has already given us a few crazy stories to follow, each dominating in their own right. Since we're on the topic of dominating, I'd be remiss if I didn't start with the biggest story the Golden State Warriors.

Having opened their season on a perfect 18-0 run, they stand just 15 games away from matching the '72 Lakers win streak of 33. With a mix of opponents both weak and strong, they still have yet to truly face their toughest tests in San Antonio and Oklahoma City in the West as well as the Cavs in the East (a Christmas Day matchup all NBA fans can't miss). However, that doesn't discount their run which includes more 30, 40 and 50-point games from their star Steph Curry than the Philadelpia 76sers have even won (their win count is at zero, by the way). The crazy trick shots and ease of stroke for Curry has put him squarely in the driver's seat for the debate of best player in the game. Of course there is this other guy in Cleveland that may have something to say about that. 

Leading the Eastern Conference Standings, Cleveland sits atop with 13 wins out of seventeen games. Not bad for the injury-riddled team but not up to Lebron and Lebron's mustache's standards. Though their star point guard as well as their first string defensive stopper Iman Shumpert are both out for at least another few weeks, and players JR Smith as well as Timofey Mozgov have also sat out a few early season games, that hasn't stopped Lebron from riding guys for lack of effort and chip-on-the-shoulder play. Seeing his finals' opponent blowing teams out by as much as 50 hasn't sat well with the king, causing him to take a deeper look at the character of the third most winningest team currently in the NBA.

Speaking of wins, it seemed as if the Houston Rockets couldn't buy one in the first few weeks of the season. Coming off of a conference finals appearance in the '14-15 season, expectations for the also-ran team were high to either duplicate or surpass such heights of success. But with a Kryptonite-ailed Superman and a switch in team chemistry from last year (cough Ty Lawson cough), the team has yet to sniff at a playoff spot in a volatile west where teams clutter at the highest win totals possible. This led to the unceremonious (and wrong in my eyes) firing of Kevin McHale as head coach. A band-aid for a much deeper locker room problem, they won the game without their coach only to resume losing a few games later.

One Of Us Is Leaving By The End Of This Season

Speaking of poor chemistry, DeMarcus Cousins and George Karl have continued their feud from last season with rumors of the owner coming down to the locker room and asking if he should fire Karl, and rumors that they discussed a possible trade with Boston. Unfortunately, every time these rumors surface, Cousins play increases exponentially the next game, making it hard for the owner to pull the lever on any potential trade or firing.

Porzingis About To Take Flight. Kris Humphries Please Remain In The Seated Position

Not the only big man that can beast, questionable (at the time) Knicks' draft pick Porzingis (not going to try spelling that first name) has been such a pleasant surprise to NY faithful that both he and his play have overshadowed the return of the previously injured All-Star Carmelo Anthony. Not only are the Knicks not trying to lose but will finish the month almost at .500 and a trade away from a playoff spot. They're still another superstar or good role player away from grabbing a piece of a championship, however.

Speaking of face-of-the-franchise superstars, many of them around the league have been a little disappointing through the first month. Taking away the stars on Golden State and Cleveland, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have not grabbed the headlines nor the wins as most expected they would in Kevin's contract season. While they are in the top 4 in the west, the Warriors domination of the Mississippi that-a way has overshadowed the ho-hum Allstar-level play as the two have proven they can play together to analyst... finally! LaMarcus Aldridge has willingly reduced his role from superstar to cog in the winning machine that is the Spurs, helping to power them to the number two spot behind the Warriors.

In the east, Derrick Rose has all but disappeared behind his plastic mask as the Bulls have taken losses to a few teams they shouldn't have, looking like a playoff team but not a real contender to take down the Cavs. The same can be said for the Miami Heat where D. Wade and Bosh have led their team to a respectable third place while continuing to try sculpting their own identity post-Lebron. Probably the biggest disappointment in the east comes from the nation's capital. Yes, what's happening on Capitol Hill in politics always induces eye rolls, but I'm talking about the Wizards. A team that handily defeated the Raptors last season in the playoffs and looked posed to defeat the Hawks on the way to a conference finals berth, have now slipped well below the playoff line and are struggling to find wins against all opponents.

I Made A Three, One Less Number Than The Amount Of Wins We Have

Probably the angriest fanbase in the NBA right now resides in Louisiana. The playoff-bound Pelicans of last year have floundered so much, that they are in the lower four teams of the NBA and have yet to accumulate five wins in 17 games. To clarify, it's a start slightly better than the Lakers at two wins and the 76ers at zero. The problem? Those two teams are trying to lose games for better draft positioning.

From Draft Day

The biggest breaking story came just yesterday when the completely expected news that Kobe Bryant is retiring after this season came from the man himself. After a month of playing like the Monsters from Space Jam came back and sucked his basketball powers away, he's decided to continue this farewell tour and collect that massive paycheck afforded to him for being the best player for so long. While I may make fun of Kobe, he will be extremely missed in the league. I salute you, black mamba. Five championships! Nobody can argue with that.

To Champion! 

What do you think? Have you been following your favorite NBA team or are you still locked into the NFL season? When do you think the Warriors win-streak will end? Do you think they can beat or match the Bulls 72-10 record? What do you think about Kobe Bryant announcing his retirement? Will you miss seeing him as a competitor or is it good riddance. Let me know in the comments below (hint: click the no comments button if you see no comments).

Check out my new 5-star comedy novel, Yep, I'm Totally Stalking My Ex-Boyfriend. #AhStalking
If you’re looking for a scare, check #AFuriousWind#DARKER#BrandNewHome or  #ThePowerOfTen. For those interested in something a little more dramatic, check out #TheWriter. The full first season is out now NOW exclusively on Amazon. If you like fast action crime check out #ADangerousLow. The sequel A New Low will be out in a few months. Join us on Goodreads to talk about books and TV, and subscribe to and follow my blog with that Google+ button to the right.

Until next time, "I'm announcing that, uh... I'm gonna be retiring from NBA basketball to play professional baseball."
"Uh... Why?"
"Because Nike told me to Just Do It!

P.S. Do I even have to add anything to that? I'll think of a better sign-off next time... maybe.

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Sunday, November 29, 2015

The CBAs Of Life #Positivity #BlogShare #WriterLife

The CBAs Of Life #Positivity #BlogShare #WriterLife


I will go ahead and admit at this point that I am actually so exhausted from the day of writing I just had that I am finding it insanely difficult to finish these last two posts for National Blog Posting Month (#NaBloPoMo). It's strange how two days ago I had writer's block on my novel and now I'm having writer's block on what to rant and rave about. While I was going to do a post entitled: Why Does The World Love Girls So Much which would have been on the recent Universal Studios acquisition of the film rights to an as-yet not released novel entitled The Girl Before, I decided against it because I didn't know all of what I wanted to say about it as my feelings continue to be mixed. The book doesn't come out until next fall yet Ron Howard is about to make a film out of it and some self-pub writers don't get the time of day? Hmph! That has led me to do this post instead.

Positivity. Everyone tries to maintain a level of positivity in their lives in hopes that it will not only spur on things like good health and good relationships, but success in all areas. Some rare occasions I forget just how important being positive is. Let me give a caveat here and say that I respect and realize the usefulness of all emotions and feelings, but there's just something about positivity which is so addictive and the one thing we must all have if we are going to get through the drudgery of life.

From what I've seen, the world is filled with people who will doubt you and your abilities at every turn. I remember back in college I wanted to start a comedy thing and was immediately told how hard it would be. That is when the idea reinforced in my head that sometimes another person's "negativity" is not meant to be mean or overly critical on purpose. Often they believe the truth behind their words. The great thing is that you don't have to believe it.

Don't get me wrong, we all need to hear the truth from those around us we trust, but we must train ourselves to discern between when someone else may be correct about our reality and when we have the will and/or know-how to prove them wrong. I think it is for this very reason that we sometimes must take on challenges to push our limits and test the boundaries by which others see us and we see ourselves. One of the reasons I took on the National Novel Writing Month (#NaNoWriMo) challenge was not to prove to myself I could do it (I've written a book in a month countless times) but to cheer on others that didn't know if they could or not. In some ways I lost sight of that a little and busied myself with my own novel, but it did reinforce to me the precious feeling you get when you believe in yourself and accomplish what you set out to do.

My standards by which to live have always been summed up in about four or five words. You first have the acronym CBA: Conceive, Believe, Achieve. There is nothing you can do in this world without locking in the first concept of, uh... conception. You have to know what you want to achieve before you can achieve it. Some people don't have much of an idea about that when they start something. It's always too general. Saying that you want to write a novel, even picking the genre is not specific enough to motivate you all the way through to the end sometimes. I know we've all heard it before thousands of times, but writing or picturing clear goals for yourself is paramount to success.

Your Brightest Days May Lay Ahead Of You Yet!

Next, you have to believe. Stay as positive as you can as you start the process of going after what you want. Sure, you may breakdown. That's fine. A breakdown is OK so long as you can recover. Don't be ashamed to fall apart especially if you're trying to do something that others around you know is possible but are too afraid to attempt. Pride can get in the way of you daring to fail, get back up and continue. Don't take this as a continue-at-any-cost thing because when you do fall, make sure you have those honest people around you to tell you if your goal is reasonable. If it is, then keep going after it.

Though it doesn't fit into the neat acronym, the next thing you have to do is work your butt off. The reason I like NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo is because it pushes writers to try fitting into a community where everyone is working their tails off to get their art out and onto the page. You have people cheering on your hard work which can make you want to work even harder. But when this ends, we all must find the desire, the burn, the drive to continue the work we started. Rome wasn't built in a day, nor in a month. Your goal for writing that novel, or losing weight, or getting that job promotion or raise or whatever you want to achieve takes time. Keep at it!

And finally, try to achieve what you set before you. Remember the goals, put a time stamp on when you want to have achieved them and try sticking to it. Admittedly, it doesn't always work, but when it does, it's amazing. Even if it doesn't, you always learn something about yourself and the world around you on the way, and that can be uplifting in its own right.

What do you think? For those NaNoers out there are you staying positive as the month closes out? Do you maybe have some other goals you're trying to achieve that you are trying to stay positive on? How has your November 2015 been? Let me know in the comments below (hint: click the no comments button if you see no comments).

Check out my new 5-star comedy novel, Yep, I'm Totally Stalking My Ex-Boyfriend. #AhStalking
If you’re looking for a scare, check #AFuriousWind#DARKER#BrandNewHome or  #ThePowerOfTen. For those interested in something a little more dramatic, check out #TheWriter. The full first season is out now NOW exclusively on Amazon. If you like fast action crime check out #ADangerousLow. The sequel A New Low will be out in a few months. Join us on Goodreads to talk about books and TV, and subscribe to and follow my blog with that Google+ button to the right.

Until next time, "gimme an A! Gimme a B! Gimme a C! What's that spell?"
"ABC is not a word. It doesn't spell anything, it's just the first three letters of the alphabet."
"Wow! You try to do a positive cheerleading exercise and some people just have to be that guy."

P.S. Don't act like you don't know who that guy is. You know. You probably work with him. I'll come up with a better sign-off next time.

P.P.S. Am I tripping or just spelling "positivity" wrong? I used two different word processors and they both underlined it? Guess machines don't like that word.

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Saturday, November 28, 2015

How To Prep Your Vegetable And Ornamental Garden Beds For Winter #Gardening #WinterPrep #Veg

How To Prep Your Vegetable And Ornamental Garden Beds For Winter #Gardening #WinterPrep #Veg

Vegetable Garden 2015

Usually before I write anything I have an exact length of how long I'd like it to be. Same goes for time spent doing something like chores, etc. I say that to say that I have no idea how long this post will be just as I underestimated how long it would take for me to complete my winter garden cleanup.

What were we looking at here? That picture above was at the very beginning of the season. In the back to the far left you can see the container in which I grow corn. To the left of the main garden those colorful green and red leaves are baby lettuce and kale. To the far right against the wall are where I put the broccoli and beans. The white hoops are where the tomatoes grew for support. To give you a rundown of the things I grew and what I'm cleaning up, I will say that it was a lot. And though the success rate varied on each plant, I consider the overall season a success as roughly 65% of the things I planted grew well. So, the list:

Zone 6 (some websites do say 5 but Burpees says 6), Northern Ohio.

Vegetable/Fruit Grown                                                   Success Rate
Tomatoes: Two beefsteak varieties                                 Medium High
Tomatoes: Two Cherry varieties                                     Medium High
Tomatoes: Grape variety                                                High
Peppers: Hot                                                                 High
Peppers: Sweet                                                             Medium High
Pumpkins: Pie and Canning variety                                 High
Watermelons: Oblong shaped                                        Low (1)
Watermelons: Globe-shaped or small                             None
Beans: String                                                                 Low
Beans: Canning and Shelling                                           Medium
Corn: Sweet                                                                  Low (side note: eaten by birds)
Cantaloupe                                                                    None
Honeydew                                                                     Low (1)
Potatoes: White                                                              None
Potatoes: Sweet, Orange                                                Low (4 small edible ones)
Cabbage:                                                                       None (side note: didn't intend on growing)
Strawberries:                                                                 Medium High
Onions: Green (shallots)                                                Medium High (side note: grown in house container)
Onions: Sweet Bulbs                                                    None
Onions: Red                                                                 None
Kale: Normal Green                                                     High
Kale: Red                                                                    Medium Low
Collard Greens:                                                           Medium Low
Salad Greens: Mesclun Mix                                         Medium Low
Salad Greens: Red                                                      Medium Low
Salad Greens: Heirloom Mix                                       Medium Low
Broccoli: Normal                                                        Low (side note: No heads harvested)
Broccoli: Raabi                                                           Low (side note: No heads harvested)
Cauliflower                                                                 Low (side note: One head left to harvest)
Eggplant                                                                     Low

Foo! That was a lot. I think that's all I tried to grow--actually, as I was writing this sentence I remembered the eggplant. I really don't have a lot of space I grow everything in so it is always an achievement for me to have grown nearly any food. Sorry I didn't list the proper names of everything I grew. That would have just made the list even longer as I grew three varieties of corn, two varieties of grape tomatoes, three varieties of hot peppers, both bell and banana sweet peppers, two varieties of broccoli and cauliflower, two varieties of potatoes a slew of different melons and the list goes on. Next spring I hope to be more scientific with everything and properly journal it all for you guys so you know what exactly I'm growing up here.

Also, I should expound upon the side notes. I've been veggie gardening (#gardening) for a few years now. I grow everything from seed with the exception of potatoes. I usually buy those from the store and wait until they start sprouting stems and leaves, then pluck them off and plant. I also start most of my stuff inside my house during the winter months. I start a little late, usually March but this year started even later in late April because I was so busy with finishing my epic serial novel Unrequited. I'll do another post in the spring on why you should grow from seed if you grow at all, but suffice it to say right now that you have more control and it's cheaper.

With that said, having grown from seed plenty before I can tell you that the salad greens are usually the easiest to grow along with the collard greens which absolutely take off each year. I also usually get broccoli pretty early or pretty late in the season but didn't get any this year. It's on the list as a low success rate because I harvested some of the leaves, which are edible and mixed them with the collard greens when we had them boiled for Thanksgiving. They have much of the same taste/nutrient value (they're from a similar genus) and most people can't tell the difference. They're also cold hardy as our the collards and kale so I may get another harvest yet.

That's My Pest/Friend Bunny

The greens, broccoli and cauliflower all suffered I think because I overmulched last winter with leaves. More on leaves later, but suffice it to say that the ground was not happy about the woody covering. As they decompose, woody things suck out the nitrogen needed to make everything green and leaf abundant. I also usually grow my broccoli in a row that the previous year was used for beans. The beans next to them in the same bed also didn't do well as the strings sat low. They, I'm suspecting were eaten by our recent infestation of rabbits across the town. They're literally everywhere and I had one living amongst the bigger vegetation in my garden. I named him Bunny. I don't have to always be creative in life.

I also had a huge problem with birds for the first time this year as they mercilessly tore into my cornstalks. I grow my corn in a container (yes, it's possible for you novices). They only got about four feet tall when the birds came over and ripped the stalks from the container and tore the container's side. Vicious arm-less creatures. They also tore through my salad greens and collards. Everything else was good. Very little insect damage to any of my plants despite the huge mosquito colony that lived within my over-flooded area. Also, while I grew a heck of a lot of strawberries, my neighbor's dog kept eating them, then when I would pick them I would forget I had them and they would sit and rot in the back of the fridge. Luckily, I stayed diligent with the tomatoes and peppers and still have two full plastic bottles of tomato puree to do with what I wish. FYI, those 16.9oz water bottles you get with your favorite brand make great containers for freezing sauces in so long as you don't drink directly from them before hand. Or do it if its only you who is going to use the sauce inside. I don't care.

The white potatoes got flooded and I accidentally cut the top off in the heat which immediately killed them. The sweet potatoes also flooded but I was able to save them by scooping out the water.

Finally, to the actual garden prep. Two things I wanted to save to overwinter for next year were my pepper plants and tomato plants. Due to an early frost way back at the end of September (seriously, 30 degree nighttime dip; in contrast, Thanksgiving was 65 degrees) the tomatoes died off before I could transplant. I did, however get to my pepper plants in time.

Hot Peppers Left to right: Bird pepper, Jalapeno Pepper

Note first that this first step is done after transplanting. To overwinter you cut all the flowers, potential buds and fruit from the plant. Then trim any leaves that point inward or look like they will cross with another branch opposite of it. Finally, you want to top off the plant by picking a leveling spot and cutting off the top most growing branch of all branches at that level. Remove about 80% of the leaves, keeping only the top most leaves, then move it inside. Again, this is after you've already dug it from the ground and re-potted it.

To re-pot it, dig it out of the ground, have a warm bucket of clean, clear water nearby, shake the dirt from the root ball, then dip the entire root ball into the water. Wiggle it around. This cleans the root ball of most unwanted house pests that may live within the soil. Make sure you do it hard enough to create as bare of a root as possible--no soil from outside.

Two Sweet Pepper Plants: Left to right, banana and sweet bell

Next, get a clean, sanitized flower pot. If you have an old one that had something in it before or you just bought a new one, you might want to wash it of any possible bacteria that could have gotten on it. Remember, this will be the plant's home for the next six months or so. It has to be healthy where it is. Finally, fill the pot with a good clean potting mix, bring the pot inside and set it in a very sunny place. If the temperature in-house is drastically hotter or cooler than the outside temps, you may want to acclimate it to the inside over the course of two weeks by bringing it in each day for two more hours than the previous day starting with two hours in the windowsill. Note that as it gets later into winter, you'll need to supplement the sunlight with a good fluorescent or halogen grow light. I usually use the ones in my basement or laundry room and they do just fine. This is the first time I'm doing this with an adult plant, so I don't know if I'll succeed throughout the winter but fingers crossed.

The same steps can be followed for tomatoes. In both cases you'll want to water at least once a week but not nearly as much as you did when they were outside. Think 1/3 to 1/4 of what you gave it then. You'll also need to feed it a nitrogen-heavy food once or twice a month to keep up leaf growth. I'm using a compost tea. When it gets time to plant it outside again, you'll switch to a more potassium and phosphorous-heavy feed to stimulate root and flower growth to prepare it for the season. Finally, you'll want to top it off every few weeks so it doesn't completely cease growing and tries to bush out more.

Practically every other vegetable is a one-time seasonal thing that cannot be saved overwinter. So what do you do with that thick broccoli stalk or the corn stalks that you couldn't eat or the dried pumpkin vines after harvesting the pumpkins? One beautiful word: Compost.

A Mixture of finished compost, coffee grounds and dead leaves

Composting is incredibly difficult and easy. If you're here reading this, I'm sure you've read/asked about compost and know of the varying ratios of browns to greens and reds and blues and all that! Look, there are two things you need in abundance for good compost: dead leaves and coffee grounds/kitchen scraps. The best way to get coffee grounds is to call your local Starbucks or other coffeehouse about an hour before they close and ask them if they have any used ones from the day for your garden. Most (not all) will gladly give them to you because it's their waste and they'd rather you put it to good use than just throw it out.

Collect leaves either from the leaf litter of your own property in the fall or that of your surrounding neighbors. Note that you will need ten times more leaves than you will coffee grounds. Since I was thinking about putting in a small orchard next year, I needed leaves not just for my compost but also for mulch for all of my garden beds. So, instead of collecting leaves week after week which I did last year and it took two and a half weeks to collect all the leaves I needed, I called my local service department and asked for them to dump some leaves on my property during their free leaf pick-up rounds.

Seriously It Took Up A Third Of The Lawn. LEAVES!

It took some massaging and getting on people to properly do their job, but I ended up with a lot of leaves; in fact, probably too much. You see, the deal originally was for me to get one of the smaller truckloads about half the size of the pile you see. That pile by the way may look small perspective-wise, however, it stood no less than six feet tall and was as wide as a pick-up truck and longer than two mid-sized cars parked back to back. It was literally tons of leaves. So, stuck with the task of moving them, I had to take three full days off last week from writing just to get them around the property to where they needed to go, eating up all my free time.

A few before and after pictures, this is what the berm of small trees covering the back edge of my property used to look like.
You can't even see the trees from the weeds and it doesn't look tall either.

And this is it with the leaf mulch. It should be noted that it stands roughly two and a half feet high.
The picture is from farther away, however you can clearly see the difference in definition and height. 

These are the two front gardens filled with leaves as their mulch.

Makes a great looking mulch! 

I should note two things here. First is that the leaves will eventually breakdown all on their own. Many people get chopped-up trees to mulch their gardens. While that works, it means that a tree has been cut down or has naturally died and was shredded to get what you see. Leaves, however, are not only almost as nutrient dense as the tree bark, but readily fall each year. The nutrients the tree's roots pull from the ground go directly to the leaves. It is only right that it should go back into the ground. Also, I am of the opinion that the bigger the tree, the deeper or wider the roots, thusly the more nutrients they've pulled. So get as many leaves from tall healthy trees as possible.

That bush in the lower left may be infected from the leaves or has lost too much nitrogen too fast. 

That leads to the second note which is the cautious danger I am taking with the leaf delivery. With the entire truck filled with different leaves from many different trees throughout the surrounding neighborhood, I have no idea from where over half of these leaves came. Sure, I walk the neighborhood everyday, however, some of the trees could have been diseased or dying and have yet to show signs of such distress, but contain their sickness within the leaves. So, while this is also a problem inherent but not often thought of when it concerns wood chips or regular bark mulch, it is an even bigger problem with leaves as they get everywhere and break down much faster into the soil.

Because of this potential problem, what I did was make a one-layer compost bed for the established ornamental gardens. The leaves do not lay directly on the soil preventing them from not only causing soil-borne pathogens from spreading but also from them robbing the soil of more nitrogen than they put out. However, beneath them is a mixed layer of dead grass and coffee grounds. Experienced gardeners know that those pull nitrogen from the soil too during their breakdown and come spring I do expect for my plants not to be as green; however, they are also rich sources of nitrogen and organic food matter for the worms and other beneficial soil organisms. With it remaining warm for the next few days and wet, many of those organisms will get to work on breaking that food down before the ground freezes. The wet leaves will act as an insulating barrier to keep them closer to the surface soil. I expect the leaves to be here for the next two seasons to create a golden to brown mulch and keep weeds down. I tried this last year on a side bed with nothing but a bush growing in it and it worked.

Also, some things can survive the winter but may need mulching. Kale and collard greens and many beets can survive through the winter so long as you cut off all their leaves. They do not need to be mulched and I found that if you mulch them with leaves, it can suck out more nitrogen than it has time to break down. Leave them bare and they'll do fine. Strawberries, however, should be mulched over with a small layer of chopped up leaves. The leaves will allow them to get some carbon dioxide during the winter while protecting them from the harshness of the wind and frost. Do Not Bring Them Inside!

Not only do you need leaves but chopped-up micro leaves are the best which is where the truck came in nicely. See, the smaller the leaf, the better it looks as a mulch, the more water it allows through a layer, and the quicker it breaks down. This is very important for compost as you want your compost pile to break down as quickly as possible before the spring planting season. The vacuum on the leaf collector trucks suck the leaves so fast that many of the crispier ones break into a fine grain perfect for compost. If you collect the leaves yourself you can mulch them smaller by mowing over a row of them a few times with your lawn mower, or dumping them into a cleaned-out garbage pale and whacking them with your weed whacker. I've been told this works well. Here I used the lawn mower.

Make a pile about two widths of the lawn mower and go around twice the same direction with your side blower attachment. It should be noted that you have to use a mulching mower or you'll have a tougher time getting across the leaves. The third time go down the opposite side, blowing all the mulched leaves back into the original row. This not only chops the leaves but mixes them well with some grass. Next, put the collection bag attachment on and go through as many times as needed to collect all of the leaves. Whatever's left embedded in the soil you can let sit and it will break down within nine months without help.

Branches at the bottom allow better air circulation, needed for bacteria.
To construct the pile, I start with a good base of leaves. I like to start over top of a hole with branches strewn across it like a drawbridge. You can see them a little if you look closely in the picture. Using a large snow shovel is easiest to measure out the perfect ratio. I do twenty shovelfuls of leaves to one shovel of coffee grounds and grass clippings/food scraps. Go leaves, coffee grounds, lawn clippings, leaves, coffee grounds, food scraps, leaves, coffee grounds, grass clippings, leaves, food scraps, coffee grounds, leaves. Those hesitant to put old food in because it may attract animals should know that most animals (outside of domesticated cats and dogs occasionally) don't like the smell of the coffee grounds. Putting the scraps toward the middle of the pile and making sure they are covered with ample leaves and a second layer of coffee grounds ensures they will not attract furry critters.

Putting the Coffee Grounds into the Shovel make them easier to spread evenly.

You are trying for no less than three feet by three feet by three feet (wide, length and height) and it is best to build directly on the dirt you plan to plant on the next year. Between each layer you want to wet the medium with water or leftover alcohol and pop (soda) work well too. The bacteria set to do the work live within water so they need it to start the breakdown. However, too much will make the pile soppy and not enough will not help the process.

It might not look it but that is about 3.5 feet tall. 

Once big and wide enough make sure that you spray it down once more to seal it with a liquid, poke air pockets in it with a sharp stick or whatever you can get to poke holes through it. The bacteria also need to breathe. Then you can cover it and do one of two things. Either wait until next spring to deal with it again and it'll slowly breakdown but it won't be completely ready the day you want to plant. Or, you can tend to it for the next three weeks, turning and churning it to put the outside stuff not yet composting into the inside over and over. This will help the pile heat quicker and leave you with less work in the spring. Come spring time you'll just need to rake it out and put it in the places it needs to go. I choose to cover mine and will look at it again in December when I get some time and a vacation. By that time it will be colder which can tell me if it's heated up or not. When you dig into the center of your pile you want it to be hot and near black as that is a sure sign the microbes are working. If it is cold enough outside, the pile may smoke. If it is smoking, congrats, you have a hot compost pile. Sit back and let it cook or turn it to keep it from burning.

Covering it will keep it from becoming too wet during the winter, halting the composting process.

Well, that's about all I have to share on my winter garden clean-up for now. I literally moved four tons of leaves and have everything set for a kick-butt spring. We'll see if everything is still alive or composted come April.
A clean, clear lawn. No more leaf pile.

What do you think? Was this article helpful to you and your winter garden clean-up? Do you garden at all? If so, do you ever compost or use any mulch in any of your gardens? If you veggie garden, which veg is your favorite to grow and why? Let me know in the comments below (hint: click the no comments button if you see no comments).

Check out my new 5-star comedy novel, Yep, I'm Totally Stalking My Ex-Boyfriend. #AhStalking
If you’re looking for a scare, check #AFuriousWind#DARKER#BrandNewHome or  #ThePowerOfTen. For those interested in something a little more dramatic, check out #TheWriter. The full first season is out now NOW exclusively on Amazon. If you like fast action crime check out #ADangerousLow. The sequel A New Low will be out in a few months. Join us on Goodreads to talk about books and TV, and subscribe to and follow my blog with that Google+ button to the right.

Until next time, "it's all home-on-the-range and stuff around here. This is nature."

P.S. That was a quote said by a friend of mine. I am now occasionally known as farmer and the amount of food I can grow in the small bit of land I utilize for my veg garden is becoming famous... sort of. I'll think of something better next time.

P.P.S. Now that I remember it, I also grew zucchini with no success. It was a late season add so I really didn't expect it to succeed after planting it in 80 degree weather.

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Friday, November 27, 2015

What Am I Missing? #NaNoWriMo #NaBloPoMo #TMOTR

What Am I Missing? #NaNoWriMo #NaBloPoMo #TMOTR

Banner courtesy of NaNoWriMo Organization.

Three? First... 10... mine? Hmph? Oh, right. I'm supposed to be writing a post right now. The thing is I'm sort of gone in the head. It's late as I write this. It's late on Thanksgiving Day though you won't read this until Friday or a year from now (hello, future fans! Do you know the riddle?). I am almost done with TMOTR 92,000 words and suddenly I've hit a snag.

That horrid and unsettling feeling that all writers get at some point, many times on one project, even multiple times during the day, I now have. That's right, fellow writers, I have reached a point of writer's block. Don't worry, it's mild. I still have a few things I know how I want to write, but I have the sneaking suspicion I'm missing something... but what?

For starters, I rarely get writer's block anymore. I remember back in high school I used to get it all the time, even abandoning projects because it was too hard to think of the next thing to unfold. It is within those times that I think the truly committed (or crazy or both) buckle down and tell their imaginations how it's going to be, not necessarily reinvent their writing style but their process. It wasn't until my late years in high school did I start writing nearly all stories nonlinear-ly. Don't get me wrong, most of them unfold in a linear progression, but as I've said before, I write what I can write when I can write it. Then the multiple stories thing came in during college. Sometimes I would work on up to eight projects at a time. I really hope that doesn't sound like bragging, I'm just saying what works for me. Rarely have I ever broken from this accept for in one recent case while finishing my epic serial novel Unrequited due out sometime next year.


To be clear, I haven't had writer's block on a novel or screenplay literally in three years. Now? Something is missing I'm sure of it, but I can't figure out what? For the month I pushed aside my usual routine, working only on the novel and the blog to try completing the #NaNoWriMo and #NaBloPoMo challenges. So far, it's slowed my novel progress but I still think I'll finish, but I can't shake that feeling. TMOTR is a mystery. I don't often write straight mysteries. I have one coming out soon entitled The Knowledge Of Fear, but that's not for a few months. So, since I am stuck for the first time in a while, I turn the floor over to you subscribers and casual readers. Leave a comment below or send me a tweet on Twitter and tell me what you think makes a great mystery. Or tell me what you think the basic structure of a mystery even is. Sometimes, I wonder if I'm even writing a mystery at all. I don't know.

Anyway, hope you all had a great Thanksgiving and if you are one of those people who happened to venture beyond your front door into the shopping culture of America for Black Friday deals, you can also leave a comment about what you got or if you really found any deal actually worth the effort. Tomorrow, expect my gardening post finally. I'll be writing that right after this one.

Check out my new 5-star comedy novel, Yep, I'm Totally Stalking My Ex-Boyfriend. #AhStalking
If you’re looking for a scare, check #AFuriousWind#DARKER#BrandNewHome or  #ThePowerOfTen. For those interested in something a little more dramatic, check out #TheWriter. The full first season is out now NOW exclusively on Amazon. If you like fast action crime check out #ADangerousLow. The sequel A New Low will be out in a few months. Join us on Goodreads to talk about books and TV, and subscribe to and follow my blog with that Google+ button to the right.

Until next time, "gobble, baby. Gobble, baby. Gobble, baby, gobble!"

P.S. If you get that dance song reference make yourself forget it so that brain power can be focused into something else like learning a new language or figuring out how to get every last squeeze of meet out of those sausage roll packages. Every single time there's a little bit of meat still left over after I squeeze and squeeze. Eh! I'll think of a better sign-off next time.

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thankful #Thanksgiving

Thankful #Thanksgiving

Turkey Pardoning Circa 2009 Courtesy of The White House

Yay for short posts. Still trying to rock out National Blog Posting Month (#NaBloPoMo) I give you on this beautiful (or horrifically bad-weathered; whichever you're getting) Thanksgiving day, my list of things I am thankful for.

I am thankful for the fact that I have the ability to read, write, do maths, and other cool stuff that unfortunately some poeple don't even get to learn let alone can do well. The fact that some people want to be able to do these things, expand their horizons, that children can't get a proper education according to their own societal standards (hey, some indigenous peoples don't need to be forced into brick and mortar schools) is quite often disheartening to me. Hopefully we'll find a way to remedy this situation.

I am thankful for the country I live in. I am a huge patriot and I love America, I really do. For all of our faults, pimples and beauty marks, we still manage to be the greatest country in the world to me. And as we find ways to push into the future, I believe we will find ways to keep this country as great as it can be, if not making it better.

Picture courtesy of TMZ and whoever made these truly ridiculous ugly sweaters. 

I am thankful for the few twitter followers, blog subscribers, Goodreads comments and novel readers that have dared read my work in some form or fashion. You guys make me wanna dance "Hotline Bling"-style. Hey, I might not have many fans, but the ones I do have make my time spent creatively plowing away all the more meaningful. Keep up the plus one'ing, commenting, rating, reviewing and novel reading. And always pass on the word if you like something I've done.

I am thankful for my TV and to a much larger extent, the creativity of the other innumerable members in this global community. The writers of both novels and films as well as articles and blog posts that push me to laugh, think and try to be better at my craft. The people filling the film and television industry that suck me into their imagination on a daily basis, spitting me back out with ideas of my own. And especially to the music industry that inspires me from country to rap to classical to soundtracks and beyond. Each day you find a thousand ways to speak to me and I continue to find ways to listen. And hey, this blog wouldn't exist without you.

I am thankful for my ability to grow and prepare my own food. Though it may not seem that important to some when much of the world can quickly run out to the store and buy stuff, it makes a huge difference to me to be able to say I've grown my own meals before even if it is only in the summer for a short time. At least I have a useful skill when the zombie or some other apocalypse comes around.

And finally I am thankful for my family as always. Like any other blood relatives, they can grind your nerves, but they're there when you need them. And, you know, love is totally that thing, you know. Like, that thing, so... yeah.

As we all gather and sit down for a meal at Thanksgiving, remember that there is always something to be thankful for in this sometimes dreary life. Find it, keep it, and stay positive. Oh, and be safe out there people.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

And The Winner Is... #DancingWithTheStars #DWTS #ABC #SeasonFinale

And The Winner Is... #DancingWithTheStars #DWTS #ABC #SeasonFinale

All pictures courtesy of ABC

What a crazy two nights it has been with all the dancing and the singing and the Christmas spirit and the emotional tug-at-your-heartstrings roller coaster ride. Christmas came a little early this year as Dancing With The Stars (#DWTS) had it's two-night four hour 21st season finale (#SeasonFinale). Woo!

With four couples in the finale, the judges and America had plenty of potential winners from which to choose. First, there was the All-American Hero Alek Skarlatos who, after he and his friends helped thwart a train terrorist in London, became an international story of American bravery. His story along with his shy and humble nature propelled him to the top three as his dancing was clearly not the best. However, the charm coupled with his partner's ingenuity on just how to properly use him in the dances made for not only good routines, but one of the more creative dance numbers in the four-hour finale. Incorporating his military background into the dance, the set designers and prop masters created a dance-worthy bootcamp set equipped with ropes, climbing walls and even a drop wall trampoline for them to fall into at the end of the routine. Though I disagree with Carrie Ann (it wasn't an all-time great and memorable routine that viewers will still look back on fondly), I will say that it was quite possibly his best dance of the season in my eyes.

Next was Carlos Penavega from Big Time Rush fame. After the booting of his wife Alexa (Spy Kids; Machete) a few weeks prior, he tried really hard not only to keep positive (he really wanted to dance against her in the finals), but to give it his all to win the whole thing. While he had a few inspired moments during the first night, I thought it was the freestyle where he both shined and may have floundered. In a never-done-before twist, he invited a few of the past contestants booted earlier in the season to come back and join him and his partner in their sports-themed dance that saw them moving and shaking to Missy Elliot's newest hit "WTF." Probably the one thing everyone looked forward to the most--him dancing with his wife--didn't pack the "oomph!" I would have liked to see. Still, it was a very memorable dance.

Sadly, Carlos' journey would stall in the four spot as he was eliminated after the first two hours on Monday, cutting the group down to three.

My two big contenders for the entire season remained along with Alek. Nick Carter of Backstreet Boys fame not only brought the funk, he brought the speed in his first dance of Monday night. Truly one of the most exciting dances of the night, he and Sharna got everyone on their feet as even he was winded by the end of it, yet still energized enough to run up the stairs to the balcony section of the ballroom. Giving the fans more of what they wanted, in his freestyle he danced to another Backstreet Boys smash hit "Larger Than Life." Living up to its name, the production saw him not only flanked by other professional dancers but holding his own in what was mostly a solo effort in a near mosh pit stage, bringing laughs and fan hysteria with him.

While Nick went for fun and entertaining, Bindi Irwin, daughter of the late Steve Irwin AKA The Crocodile Hunter, went for a more sentimental slant. Partnered with the All-Time great Derek Hough (he's won five times; it's OK to say that), she danced in a number that was a send-up of the big band era as helped by Carrie Ann. Making not breaking hold a point of emphasis as Derek disobeyed that rule of the dance the previous time he danced it with a partner in the finale, he made sure not to break the sacred dance rule this time, ensuring he and Bindi perfect tens for the perfect dance.

For their freestyle, they opted for an emotionally heartfelt dance to encapsulate not only her time spent on the show, but the love she had for her now deceased father. Dancing to a song based off the old poem Footprints, she and Derek danced as one with movements more fluid than water. Sandy footprints projected onto the floor, the routine ended with a special surprise for Bindi from Derek. The surprise? A picture of her kissing her father on the cheek as a little girl. All eyes teary, she could barely make out the second string of perfect tens she garnered for the night, giving her another perfect night for the season.

With the top three set, what a night it was. Performances from Meghan Trainor and Ariana Grande scattered the night with new music. Many of the past contestants returned as they usually do. Kim Zolciak was able to return to do the dance she would have had she not suffered her serious medical condition--a send-up of I Dream of Jeannie. Unfortunately, due to her ongoing condition Tamar could not return to participate in the festivities.

Someone who did return was crazy ass Gary Busey and his strangely hypnotic old man moves. There was also Paula Deen who returned to meander her way through a dance so badly that she didn't even appear to know she was back on Dancing With The Stars. Chaka Khan sang her biggest hit "I'm Every Woman" while her partner pranced onto camera in the most hilarious attention-seeking moment of the night. She then sang with the country/pop guy whose name I forgot, but who makes some really good music.

Another finale that was both outside and inside, the outside setting was a winter wonderland not shying away from the Christian theme equipped with both a huge Christmas tree with a star at the top as well as Santa Claus and his reindeer flying across. The usual shenanigans of clip compilations and behind-the-scenes stuff was interrupted by a few important announcements. Not only would the internet sensation teenager Hayes Grier eliminated earlier in the season be going on tour with the Dancing pros, but Alek would also go on tour with the dancing pros. But the biggest announcement of the night outside of the winner came from across the pond when Len Goodman videoed in that he would return next season to re-take his position as head judge.

The time finally arriving, the contestants were whittled down to two after Alek was sent packing. And after all of that, the winner of the 21st season of DWTS is...

Derek takes home another mirrorball trophy. Almost as dominant as the 50s Celtics. 

Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough. Come on, did you really think that Derek would not win with Bindi Irwin being a natural-born dancer and their chemistry being so phenomenal? Congratulations Bindi and Derek... again, and also congratulations to Nick for making it that far. He was pretty good too.
What do you think? Did you watch this season of DWTS? Did you pick Bindi to win? Are you happy that Len is returning? Let me know in the comments below (hint: click the no comments button if you see no comments).

Check out my new 5-star comedy novel, Yep, I'm Totally Stalking My Ex-Boyfriend. #AhStalking
If you’re looking for a scare, check #AFuriousWind#DARKER#BrandNewHome or  #ThePowerOfTen. For those interested in something a little more dramatic, check out #TheWriter. The full first season is out now NOW exclusively on Amazon. If you like fast action crime check out #ADangerousLow. The sequel A New Low will be out in a few months. Join us on Goodreads to talk about books and TV, and subscribe to and follow my blog with that Google+ button to the right.

Until next time, "dance is not just about dance. Dance is a lifestyle... about dance."

P.S. What? It's a quote about dance? I see nothing wrong with that. I'll think of something better next time.

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