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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Flower Water: Fresh Chamomile Cold Infusion

Along with my husband, I've made a conscious cheap louis vuitton effort to cut sugary sodas and other drinks out of my diet. Although we'll occasionally drink Sprite or ginger ale, for the most part we stick with tea and water (my husband also recently cut out coffee, but I still enjoy a cup or two in the morning). Water is the best thing we can drink, and it's cheap louis vuitton bags fun to flavor it to help meet hydration goals. We grow herbs that can be used to brew fresh teas such as nettle, lemon balm, and chamomile, and a couple weeks ago discovered the chamomile cheap louis vuitton belts flowers can be used to flavor water in a cold infusion. Chamomile is easy to grow (in fact, you want to plant it somewhere you don't mind it spreading), and the cold infusion is a snap to make. cheap louis vuitton shoes

Clip about a 1/4 cup of the chamomile flower heads.
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Put them in a strainer and rinse.
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Pour the flowers into a 32 oz. mason jar.
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Fill the mason jar with water (preferable filtered), and cap. buy cheap louis vuitton

Place the mason jar in the refrigerator for 8-12 hours.

The finished infusion

Strain or scoop the flowers from the jar, and enjoy! The slightly sweet and delicate flavor cheap louis vuitton bags for sale of the water is so refreshing!

You can use the flowers you removed from the mason jar to make hot chamomile tea. cheap louis vuitton mens shoes Place the flowers in a saucepan, fill the pan with 32 oz. of water, and bring to a boil. The water will begin to change color, and it depends how strong you like your tea, as to when you want to turn cheap louis vuitton mens belt off the burner. I then scoop out the flowers to add to our compost pile.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Buckwheat Peanut Butter Pancakes

Buckwheat peanut butter pancakes topped with organic strawberries and real maple syrup

Two winters ago, my husband and I started making our own maple syrup from five trees in our front yard. We keep and freeze some and like to share and give the rest away. As a result, people have asked us for maple syrup recipes. This is the first in what I hope will be a series of recipes involving maple syrup.


1-1/2 cups buckwheat pancake and waffle mix (Bob's Red Mill is my absolute favorite)

1 egg (lately we've been getting farm fresh eggs from Point Farm)

3/4 cup cold milk (I used SO Delicious coconut milk, a tasty dairy-free option)

2 Tbsp peanut butter (I love Jif Natural Creamy Peanut Butter Spread)

1 cup (or more to taste) organic strawberries (I try and eat organic strawberries as much as I can, since they're part of the Dirty Dozen)

Maple syrup (the real stuff) to taste, a generous pour


Blend mix, egg, oil, milk and peanut butter until just blended. You may need to adjust the batter with more mix or milk if it becomes too thin or thick. Preheat cast iron skillet or griddle with olive or coconut oil. To make pancakes, I scoop batter out of the bowl with a 1/4 cup and pour into the skillet. Cook on medium heat until until you see bubbles in the center and the edges begin to brown. Flip pancake, cook for less than a minute. Stack pancakes on a plate and top with strawberries and maple syrup. Yields about 12 pancakes. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

New Blog Post on She Just Writes: Do You Pin? Easy Pinterest Practices for Writers

I'm pleased to share I've written a post for the She Just Writes blog, called "Do You Pin? Easy Pinterest Practices for Writers." Click the picture to read, and happy pinning and writing!

Photo courtesy of Nicole Stokes of She Just Writes

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Ahi Tuna with Super Lemony Aioli Sauce

Ahi tuna with super lemony aioli sauce served with tricolor quinoa and winter blend vegetables
Tuna is one of my favorite foods. So much so I have two other tuna recipes on this blog (check out Tuna, Veggie & Cottage Cheese Concoction and Winter Blend Tuna Pasta). As a nursing mother, however, I'm careful to limit my tuna consumption (it's a smart idea for everyone though).

Today's recipe comes courtesy off the back of a Bay Prime Ahi Tuna bag. As a modification, I super charged the lemon aioli sauce by using the juice from 1 lemon (about 4 tablespoons) with lemon grass and lemon zest. The original recipe says to use 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and either lemon grass or lemon zest. Warning: my version is not for the faint of heart. Make sure you really like lemon if you choose to make this my way. Otherwise, I'd use the recommended amount of lemon juice and pick one additional lemon ingredient.


1 lb. Bay Prime ahi tuna

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp (or less) sea salt

Lemon Aioli Sauce 

1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt

2 tbsp lemon juice (or the juice of one lemon, about 4 tbsp)

2 tsp fresh basil (my basil hasn't sprouted yet so I used dried this time around)

1/2 tsp (or less) sea salt

1 tsp lemon grass and/or lemon zest of 1 lemon

1/2 tsp white pepper

4 cloves garlic, pressed


Thaw fish. Gently pat with a paper towel to dry. Salt and pepper tuna. Heat olive oil in cast iron skillet on high heat. Once pan is hot, add tuna and sear 2 minutes per side for pink center, or 3 to 4 minutes per side for well done tuna (I like all my meat and fish to be well done). 

Lemon Aioli Sauce: Combine yogurt, lemon juice, basil, salt, lemon grass and/or lemon zest, white pepper and garlic. Mix well. Chill in refrigerator for 20 minutes. Scoop on the cooked tuna.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A Protein-Packed Pilaf that's Not a Side Dish

I suffer from migraines, and along with magnesium supplements I've made an effort to eat more foods high in magnesium. I find magnesium-loaded foods to be helpful not only for prevention but to ease the pain during an episode (it may be all in my head, but there's not one bad thing about a super food like quinoa, my favorite migraine-fighting food). Earlier this week a migraine (thankfully short in duration, about 5 hours) led me to look for a quinoa and red kidney bean recipe. I found this Quinoa and Bean Pilaf recipe on the Food Network and modified it for fun. At first I wanted to prepare it with some lemon pepper chicken, and when I started putting it together realized this is a protein-packed meal all on its own. Below is my version complete with photos. Enjoy, and if you try it would love if you left your thoughts and modifications in the comments.


2 bell peppers, 1 red, 1 yellow (the recipe calls for red and green peppers, and I think this would also be good with orange peppers)

6 scallions, sliced, separate the white and green parts (the recipe calls for 3 scallions but I love them so I went heavy on the scallions, no regrets)

2 stalks celery, sliced (I do not love celery and it's easy for it to overtake a dish, so I went with the receipe here)

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped (I only had two cloves, otherwise would've used more garlic)

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Kosher salt

1 cup quinoa

2 15-oz. cans of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (I used organic kidney beans, and you can use black kidney beans if you prefer)

4 cups organic baby spinach (honestly I grabbed 4 handfulls of the stuff)

1/2 cup shredded white mild cheddar cheese (the recipe also suggested pepper jack)

Sriracha sauce (the recipe says its optional, but it tasted bland without it, and any kind of hot sauce really brings all the flavors together. I'm not a hot sauce lovin person, either.)


Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat (I love our cast iron skillet). Add peppers, scallion whites and celery. Cook and stir until soft, which will take about 5 minutes. Add garlic, tomato paste, cayenne and about a half teaspoon of salt (I actually used a little less). Cook and stir for about 2 minutes. Stir in quinoa, then add two cups of water and the kidney beans. 

Simmer and cook, and stir often. You want most of the water to be absorbed and for the quinoa to be cooked through (should take about 15 minutes). The recipe suggests adding up to a 1/4 cup more of water if necessary, and I did need to add a little water before the quinoa was completey finished cooking. 

Remove the skillet from the heat and add the spinach, then stir until it starts to wilt. The recipe suggests adding 1/2 teaspoon of salt; I went easy here and just added a pinch. Stir in half of the scallion greens and the shredded cheese.

Place individual portions on plates and sprinkle the rest of the scallion greens and cheese on top.

Drizzle with Sriracha sauce and enjoy! 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

4 Practical Uses for Coconut Oil

From the kitchen to your skin care routine, there are thousands of uses for coconut oil. It hydrates and moisturizes hair, skin and lips. Coconut oil is a fantastic natural all-over moisturizer (use it like lotion after bathing), and when combined with other ingredients, makes a great base for hair masks and lips scrubs. Here are two recipes to try.

Coconut Oil Hair Mask



  • Slather into hair. Make sure to massage your scalp and focus on your roots.
  • Leave the mask in your hair for a minimum of 30 minutes. Wear overnight if possible.
  • Wash with a mild shampoo and style as usual. This leaves your hair soft, shiny and smooth!
The lip scrub recipe is courtesy of Brandie Gilliam, Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Organic Beauty Talk.

Brandie Gilliams' DIY Lip Scrub Recipe


  • 1 tablespoon Nutiva organic coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon all natural raw or organic honey
  • 2 teaspoons organic brown sugar (or organic white sugar or coconut flakes)


Mix ingredients. Use a toothbrush or your finger to gently apply to your lips with a back and forth motion. Rinse, pat dry and then condition with a bit of coconut oil for soft smooth lips!

I also use coconut oil on my infant to treat and prevent diaper rash and in a homemade teething oil.

Coconut oil is an easy, affordable and fun way to moisturize your skin, hair and lips. Do you have any coconut oil tips to share?

Image courtesy of Keerati/

Saturday, December 21, 2013

An Obituary for My Cat

Mayor Meowzer Klapp

Mayor Meowzer McDermott Klapp of Meowzerville (formerly Whisker City- yes, that Whisker City) died peacefully at home on December 20, 2013, after a brave battle with rodent poison. He was born in June 2007 in Kent, Ohio and moved to Meowzerville on November 1, 2007. He was elected mayor in 2008 and governed Meowzerville after his re-election in 2012 until his passing. A life-long Democat, the Mayor will best be remembered for his chipmunk population control legislation and his city-wide ban on gluten in cat food. He successfully worked with Republikitties, Sniffertarians, Labratarians, Independepups, and Indepupdents.

Survived by his parents, Mark and Alanna Klapp; his tiny human, Gabe; and his brother from another mother and species, BFF Sniffer dog. He was loved by many friends and constituents and taken from us too soon.

Meowzer arrived on my doorstep at a time in my life when I needed him most, and he must have fulfilled his purpose, as much as that breaks my heart. He was loved by a lot of people, many of whom he'd never met face-to-face. In the end, the best thing you can say about a life, whether it's a human or pet, is that it was a life filled with love. Rest in peace, little buddy.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Winter Blend Tuna Pasta

Here's a quick, easy and healthy recipe to whip up before you head out into the holiday frenzy. The inspiration came from the Tuna Pasta recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, Energy Food: Energy-Giving Food Solutions to Keep You Fully Charged Throughout the Day, by Beverly le Blanc.

Winter Blend Tuna Pasta


1 package wholewheat pasta (I used penne pasta, my favorite)

1 tbsp olive oil

6 garlic cloves, diced

1 yellow onion, chopped

winter blend of broccoli florets and cauliflower (I bought a frozen blend and steamed them separately)

2 cans chunk white albacore tuna in water, drained and rinsed

juice of two lemons

Himalayan pink salt to taste

black pepper to taste

dried basil leaves to taste (which I would've had fresh basil but alas winter is here)


Cook the pasta according to package directions.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the garlic and onions and stir for a couple of minutes. Add the tuna and flake with a fork, then add lemon juice and pepper. Continue to stir and break up the tuna. Add basil leaves and Himalayan pink salt to taste.

Drain pasta and pour into a large bowl. Add the tuna mixture and steamed vegetables with a bit of olive oil and toss. Add more lemon juice and seasonings if desired. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Why Blogs are Like Tattoos

For writers, blogs are like tattoos: once you get one you have to have more. I started The Chipper Writer almost four years ago, and two months later joined the lovely ladies at the Cleveland Browns blog Bitter Orange & Brown. Earlier this year I received an invitation from Judith Manigault, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Lingk2us Magazine, to blog for FE Media's collection of parenting blogs called The Mom (and Dad!) Collective. My blog is called The FTM Chronicles: First-Time-Mom Alanna Klapp's journey into motherhood and beyond. I hope you'll stop by and visit and say hello. I've written three posts so far (links below), and the fourth post (called "The Preposterous Postpartum Baby Bump Presumption") is slated for publication on December first. Thanks for reading and have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

10 Surprising Things I Loved & Loathed About Pregnancy

I'm about two months postpartum as I write this, and lately have found myself reflecting on my pregnancy (not to be confused for missing pregnancy). While I carried my son, I had a lot of friends who told me they hated being pregnant, and I heard from a few who said they loved it. I'm somewhere in the middle. There were definitely parts of pregnancy that made me miserable. Before I got pregnant I thought I'd hate it. But I was pleasantly surprised by all the things I loved and enjoyed about being pregnant. Love or loathe, I found them all to be surprises, since I knew pretty much zilch about pregnancy and babies until that fateful day when the word "Pregnant" appeared (twice) on the digital Clear Blue Easy.


1. Even thicker, shiny hair. Pregnancy hormones and Rainbow Lite prenatal vitamins are not a joke. I didn't think it was possible for my thick hair to get any thicker, but it did, and it was as shiny as Rudolph's nose. Now I'm dealing with postpartum hair loss, but (surprisingly) this hasn't been as horrible as I anticipated.

2. Baby movement. On my most achy, swollen and exhausted days, I forgot my ailments when my son moved or kicked.

3.  My acne cleared up. Since the age of 11 I've dealt with acne. In 23 years only Proactiv and pregnancy have cleared it up. My skin never looked as radiant as it did during pregnancy. I hoped the hormones would permanently banish the zits, but no such luck. Back to the Proactiv.

4. Strong nails. I attribute this to the prenatal vitamins, and what a treat for a girl with constantly breaking and peeling nails. Happily this has continued postpartum (which is why I think it's the vitamins).

5. Voracious appetite. This was most prevalent during my second trimester, a point in my life where I can honestly say I enjoyed food more than any other time.

6. Maternity clothes. I dreaded buying maternity clothes until I tried them on. Nowadays they are stylish and comfortable. They can be expensive, but second-hand shops such as Clothes Mentor have entire maternity sections and you can walk out with a bag full of clothes for under $100. Target's maternity section is chic and affordable too.

7. The way my cat and dog acted around me. The dog was extra protective and sweet, and the cat spent countless hours snuggled up with my belly.

8. Assertiveness. I became more decisive, especially when it came to picking a restaurant. It became easier for me to say no and to ask for help when I needed it.

9. Cocoa butter. I love the smell of Palmer's cocoa butter.

10. The baby bump. Not something I'd always want to have as it made it difficult if not impossible to tie my shoes, but for the time it was necessary it was fun. Just ask my cat.


1. Gas. As it wasn't enough I felt like a whale, I had to feel like a farting whale.

2. Fatigue. To all women pregnant with your first child: if you're tired, sleep! There's no shame in it. You need the sleep to take care of you and nurture your child, and once the baby comes, you will sleep but it won't be the same. Ever. Again.

3. Crankiness. I thought all pregnant women were emotional, not cranky. Don't get me wrong, I had my share of bawling (like I did in the Kohl's bra section because they didn't carry maternity bras), but at first I was extremely irritable. Before I took my pregnancy test I thought I had PMS because my mood was so foul.

4. Tailbone pain. I expected back pain, but the pain in the literal butt caught me off guard.

5. Migraines. Along with morning sickness I had migraines every day during my first trimester and at the beginning of the second. They were so debilitating I eventually saw a neurologist who diagnosed it as an intractable migraine and prescribed me oxygen therapy, which helped tremendously.

6. Hot flashes. I thought those were for menopause. But no, I got a special sneak peak while pregnant.

7. Peeing every 10 seconds. OK, so I'm exaggerating, it was every 10 minutes. Don't miss that at all.

8. Functioning with extra weight. I was awkward, out of breath and wore shoes without laces the last two months.

9. Leg cramps. I got them before I was pregnant, but I never had them as often as I did until pregnant. Nothing like a fiery knot in your calf to start your day out right.

10. Sore ribs. This one perhaps surprised me most. It was mostly the right side where my son liked to rest his precious little feet. Two months after delivery my ribs are still a bit sore but feeling better every day.

Would I do it again? One look at my baby confirms the answer is yes (although I think just one more time and not right this second). What about you, mommas? Did you love pregnancy or hate it? Or were you like me with things you remember fondly and things that make you cringe? What specific things did you love or loathe about pregnancy? Please share in the comments below.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Catfish with Fresh Herbs & Lemon Juice

Catfish with fresh herbs & lemon juice served with roasted garlic quinoa & steamed cauliflower
I Googled "herbs for catfish" and found the inspiration for today's recipe post, "Herb-Baked Catfish" on This recipe calls for dried herbs but I wanted to use fresh herbs from our herb garden. Here's my version. Today's featured herbs are:





Catfish with Fresh Herbs & Lemon Juice


2 catfish fillets

1 medium garlic clove (I used a tbsp. of minced garlic since I didn't have fresh)

1 tsp. Himalayan pink salt

1/2 tsp. fresh thyme

1/2 tsp. fresh oregano

2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

2 tbsp. butter, melted

1/2 tsp. pepper

3/4 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. fresh basil

2 tbsp. lemon juice


Mix minced garlic and melted butter in a small bowl, then spread over the bottom of a glass baking dish. Mix pepper, Himalayan pink salt, paprika, and the fresh thyme, oregano and basil and coat the fish on both sides. Put each fillet on the baking dish on top of the butter and garlic.Squirt the fillets with lemon juice. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until the fish flakes with a fork. Remove fillets onto serving plates, then stick the baking dish back in the oven for 4 minutes. Pour the butter and garlic over each fillet. Makes 2 servings. 

The finished fish. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Tuna, Veggie & Cottage Cheese Concoction

Tuna, Veggie & Cottage Cheese Concoction wrap garnished with chives & served with (store bought) chick pea salad

I didn't always enjoy cooking. In fact, cooking used to be a source of stress and anxiety, but it's become a coping mechanism. My husband loves to cook and I began as a reluctant assistant in the kitchen. He made it fun and taught me things like how to time and pace yourself so all the food is ready around the same time, which eased the stressful parts. I first wrote a food post back in 2009, scrambled eggs and leeks, from a recipe book I still use and love, Energy Food: Energy-Giving Food Solutions to Keep You Fully Charged Throughout the Day, by Beverly le Blanc. 

Two other huge reasons I began to cook more were gardening and the Internet. My husband is also an avid gardener, and in the summer of 2012 we grew a garden overrun with yellow nutsedge (long story), but the garden produced the most yield we'd ever seen. We'd pick whatever was available in the garden that day, whether it be eggplant, tomato, zucchini or squash, and we'd Google ingredients, pick a recipe and make it, usually with modifications. We cooked a few food bombs but for the most part, ate healthy, delicious, pesticide and GMO-free food. I'm pretty sure that's the healthiest eating I've ever done in a single summer. I lost 10 pounds and felt more energetic. My digestive system ran like a well-oiled machine. 

Along with the health benefits, I started to appreciate and enjoy the art of cooking. I love to chop vegetables (I'm a lot better at using a knife that I used to be, I had/have an irrational fear of knives, another source of anxiety), I love to saute and I love to follow and modify recipes. I used to get anxious if I didn't measure out ingredients exactly, now I estimate and throw stuff in and add a little of this or that just for fun. In 2012 I made the transformation from horrible, awkward cook to a point where I now feel comfortable referring to myself as a foodie. 

Not only did I cook from our garden in 2012, I read two food memoirs that inspired me to want to write about food and cooking. The Irish-Hungarian Guide to the Domestic Arts, by Erin O'Brien, is a laugh-out-loud funny read that weaves recipes and life into a literary tapestry that will make you ponder long after you've stopped giggling. I read this book in February 2012.

In September 2012, my friend Jonathan loaned me Julie Powell's Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously, a national bestseller and a movie starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams (every author's dream, a bestselling book made into a movie). It's the story of how Julie Powell, almost 30 years old and unhappy in her clerical government job, cooked all 524 recipes from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year, and blogged about the experience in order to reclaim her life. Not only did she reclaim her life, she ended up with a book deal. Jonathan has given me his blessing to keep the book, and I'm so grateful because it's such an inspiration to me.

In December 2012 I found out I was pregnant with our first child, and after three months of morning sickness my appetite kicked into high gear and I began cooking almost daily, without a vegetable and herb garden (going to the grocery store works just as well). I cooked through the whole spring and now that it's summer, hit up the Howe Meadow Farmer's Market on a rather regular basis and have cooked a few dishes with fresh herbs from our new raised bed herb garden. The vegetables are freshly planted, and while I'm no Julia Child, Julie Powell or Erin O'Brien, I figured it's high time I write some foodie posts on this blog. While they're in season, I plan to post recipes that feature herbs from our herb garden. If you try any of these receipes please free to modify them however it suits your needs, and I hope you'll share what you did in the comments section. 

The first recipe comes from my mom, who made this for our family on 90 degree summer days in our non-air conditioned house when she didn't want to use the stove or the oven in the heat and humidity. It's light, refreshing, hydrating and filling. Today's featured herbs are flat leaf parsley and dill.

Flat leaf parsley and dill

Tuna, Veggie & Cottage Cheese Concoction


1 cucumber, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

i orange bell pepper, diced

1 yellow bell pepper, diced

1 tomato, diced

1 can chunk white Albacore tuna in water, drained & rinsed (or whatever kind of tuna you like, I use Starkist)

1 24 oz container of cottage cheese (I used Smith's small curd 4% milk fat)

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon dill

1 teaspoon flat leaf parsley

flat bread or pita bread


Combine cucumber, red pepper, orange pepper, yellow pepper, tomato, tuna and cottage cheese together in a large bowl. Stir until well mixed. Season with pepper, dill and parsley to taste. 

The filling all mixed together 

Scoop mixture onto flat bread or into pita pockets and serve. 

Roll it up and eat it!

Cover bowl and refrigerate leftovers. Can also prepare in advance and chill in fridge before serving. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

9 Things to Say and Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman

Alanna 22 weeks
I'm happy to tell you I'm five months pregnant with our first child! Our little boy is due around August 12th. Since I learned I was prego on December 10th, people have said kind and gracious things to me. Others have said things that if I've ever said them or anything else offensive to pregnant women out of ignorance, I'm going on record here to apologize and state I'll never say them ever again, God willing. It's been made painfully aware to me how folks lose all sense of boundaries with a pregnant woman. People mean well, and they're not saying these things out of malice or to bother me enough to include them in a blog post. I hope this list makes you smile (and even giggle), and I also hope it will help make you aware of what to say and not to say the next time you're talking to an expectant mother. Enjoy!


1. "Are you sure you're not six or seven months? You look big today." I was asked this at 21 weeks, more like five months. Yes, I'm sure.

2. "Are you sure it's not twins? One might be hiding behind the other." So, are you saying I'm so big there must be two babies in my belly?

3. "Was it planned?" Yes, he was "planned," but this question irritates me. Babies are a gift from God whether or not they were intended by the child's parents, and it's such a nosy question. Are you asking me if I had unprotected sex with my husband on purpose? I think that's none of your business.

4. "Is it your husband's?" I was asked this with my husband standing right next to me. There are no words for this one, except, yes, the baby boy was sired by my husband. Thanks for asking.

5. "You're not allowed to drink coffee." Um, thanks, but actually, I am "allowed" to drink coffee. According to What to Expect When You're Expecting, the most helpful and at the same time frightening book on pregnancy out there, on page 69: 

"Most evidence suggests that drinking up to approximately 200 mg of caffeine a day is safe during pregnancy. Depending on how you take your coffee (black or with lots of milk), that could mean limiting yourself to about two cups (give or take) a day. Which means you're good to go (and fuel your get-up-and-go) if you're a light or moderate coffee drinker."

6. "You might change your mind about his name after he's born." My husband and I have had our boy's name picked out for years. We use it when we talk to him through my stomach (yes, we do that). You may know people who had this experience, which is great for them, but I still don't understand why you'd say that to me? Why not say what a nice name and move on?

7. "Wouldn't it be great if you had him on your birthday?" No, it wouldn't. My birthday is about three weeks after my baby's due date. That would make me 43 weeks (10-11 months) pregnant. 

8. "You're going to get carpel tunnel." Wow, I didn't know you were a doctor! And that every single pregnant woman gets carpel tunnel! Again, just because you or someone you know had that experience doesn't mean I will. Please don't speak that over me (along with number seven). I already have carpel tunnel, it started 11 years ago and I've since made lifestyle and ergonomic changes that keep the pain away. 

9. "You're not allowed to dye your hair." Please people, unless you're my doctor (which you're not), don't tell me what I'm allowed and not allowed to do! No one has researched or freaked out about this stuff more than me. I am "allowed" and I did (gasp!). From What to Expect When You're Expecting, page 144-145:

"Even though no evidence suggests the small amount of chemicals absorbed through the skin during hair coloring is harmful when you're expecting, some experts still advise waiting out the first trimester before heading back to the salon for retouching. Others maintain that it's safe to dye throughout pregnancy."

I waited a few weeks into my second trimester to be on the safe side and also because I didn't feel well enough the first trimester to make a trip to the salon (smells are also magnified during the first trimester and I handled this much better during the second). 


1. "You look great."

2. "You look beautiful."

3. "You look lovely."

4. "You have that lovely expectant glow." or "You're glowing." We love hearing that.

5. "You're so tiny!"

6. "You don't look like you're having a baby." This made my day one day at the beginning of my fourth month.

7. "You're so little!"

8. "What a lucky baby!" Well gosh, thanks!

9. "You're going to be great parents!" or "You're going to be a great mom!" Again, thank you and expectant mothers love hearing this one!

In other words, if you're not telling me how fabulous I look or complimenting my future parenting skills, then please shut up.

If you have any DOs and DON'Ts of your own to add, please share them in the comments. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

13 Ways Laughter Nourishes Writers

A guest post by Debra Johnson

You know the old saying "laughter is the best medicine?" Well, it turns out it's really true. Laughter does so much for the human body that it's no wonder we love to laugh. 


1. Improves your sleep quality and helps to treat insomnia – Getting a good night’s rest is so important. Laughter helps relax and put you in the right frame of mind to get some great REM sleep.

2. Makes you more open-minded – We are always talking about how people need to be more understanding and compassionate towards one another. Maybe all we need is a good laugh.

3. Improves your memory – I don’t know about you, but if laughing helps me to remember what I came in the next room to get, then I'm all for it.

4. Boosts your problem solving ability and creativity – I think I will start listening to comedians the next time I have to be creative and think outside the box.

5. Reduces your anxiety and depression – I wonder if nervous laughter happens for this reason?

6. Bolsters your immune system – I can’t help but think of that clown doctor movie with Robin Williams…

7. Stimulates the release of your endorphins and puts you in a positive mood – And as we all know, happy people don’t kill their husbands. Sorry, bad movie quote habit.

8. Protects you against heart attacks–That is a valuable benefit. I know a few people who could stand to laugh more often, don’t you?

9. Makes men appear more desirable to women – I wonder if the opposite is true. I would think so.

10. Strengthens your relationships with others by increasing your sense of trust – Sharing a laugh with friends is one of the warmest feelings ever.

11. Increases your blood flow by improving blood vessel function – This probably has something to do with number eight…

12. Relieves the tension in your muscles – Let’s just hope your bladder muscles stay intact.

13. Raises your pain tolerance – The next time I stub my toe I’ll try to laugh about it… No.

As a writer, you should remember that humor is a huge part of life. Inject more humor into your writing and help your readers to experience these benefits.

About the Author: 

This guest post is contributed by Debra Johnson, blogger and editor of She welcomes your comments at her email Id: -

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Beauty Tip to Relieve Dry Cracked Hands

If you're anything like me, you live in the north somewhere where it snows and it's cold, and your hands have taken a beating by this time in February: cracked, sandpapery, and painful.

I love Neutrogena Norwegian Formula hand cream, but unless I put it on in microscopic bits, it's very greasy, which makes me not want to put it on, which makes the skin on my hands suffer even more.

My husband came up with an excellent tip to use this lotion. My hands are irritated but his have taken a much more brutal beating this winter. He's a plumber and has cracks on his thumbs and finger joints that are deep and bleed.

Below is his method. I have personally tried it, and testify that it works.

1. Dampen your hands slightly with water. I know, this is probably the last thing you want to do when your skin is so dry, but it works. Do not run them under running water, just put a few drops in your palm and run your hands together so the palms and the backs are moistened, not soaked.

2. Apply the Neutorgena Norwegian Formula hand cream. Rub it all over your hands, into your fingers, in the spots you need relief the most (for me it's the knuckles on my index fingers). The lotion should lather like soap. If you have time, let it sit on your skin for a few minutes (soooo soothing!!).

3. Take a paper towel and gently wipe the cream off your hands. The result is smoother, softer skin that's not greasy, and you can immediately carry on.

It's amazing! So glad my husband told me and so I wanted to share it with you.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

4 Tips for Starting a Writers Group

Guest post by Heather Green

A writers group is one of the best ways to improve your writing and get feedback on your story before you attempt publication. However, not all writers groups are as successful as others. It's important you carefully consider your ultimate goals in writing and your writing style when forming a group. It's also crucial to set clear guidelines and rules to make the group work more effectively. Here are four tips to get you started.

Determine the Purpose of the Group
It helps to be in a group with like-minded writers. Some writers groups will focus primarily on writing for the sake of writing, and many members do not intend to pursue serious publication. Other groups are more focused on publication and may take the craft of writing a marketable novel more seriously. Both types of groups are valid and work well. You may also have a mix in your group. As you become more serious about writing, you may gravitate towards a group that is more focused on publishing.

Decide on the Type of Writing for the Group
Some mixed groups work well, but it can be difficult for someone who writes children’s books to get effective feedback from someone who is focused on writing mysteries. Both types of writing are of equal value, but they take a very different approach. Some crossovers will work better than others. For example, you can often combine people who write young adult books with middle grade books or across genres within the same age group. Similarly, young adult romance authors and adult romance authors may be able to help each other in a writing group. Nonfiction writers may work better with a group focused on nonfiction.

Set a Schedule
Setting up a schedule will make it easier for the group to function properly. You can determine how often you meet and the amount of work each group member submits. If you meet each week, you may have members rotate when they submit, or you may require a set number of pages from each member each week. You'll need to limit the size of the group so you can effectively critique each person. The schedule is paramount to making the group work. It's important to have consistent meeting times, and to have someone who will control that aspect of the group.

Another slice of the schedule may include focusing on a certain aspect of writing. You may assign a different group member to give a presentation on a writing skill, tip or trick each meeting, followed by an assignment or exercise. This can help each writer improve and look for specific areas to work on each week.

Critiquing Guidelines
Another critical group feature is to set up clear guidelines when it comes to providing critiques. If you are meeting as a group, it helps to have the material beforehand so everyone can read it over a few times and offer more meaningful suggestions. If you're not comfortable doing that, have each writer provide a paper copy at the critique group so members can write comments on the paper.

Critiquing guidelines need to address critiquing etiquette. It's essential you provide meaningful feedback without being malicious or totally tearing something apart. It helps to find some specific things to praise as well as specific things to work on.

About the Author:
Heather Green is a freelance writer for several regional magazines in North Carolina as well as a resident blogger for Her writing experience includes fashion, business, health, agriculture and a wide range of other topics. Heather has just completed research on online nursing programs and associates in nursing

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Three Ways Writers Can Earn Credibility Online

Guest post by Angelita Williams

So you've written a novel that's sure to revolutionize the way society thinks. One small problem: no one knows who you are. How will consumers know your book is worth a shot if you don't have much credibility under your belt? While credibility is typically earned over time, there are some ways you can try to build momentum online—or at the very least add some new material to your About Author page.

Enter a Writing Contest

You may have entered a few writing contests in high school, but there are still a plethora of opportunities for adult writers roaming around in cyberspace. While some contests require a small fee, others are completely free to enter (and please beware of scams!). Just about all genres are available, including fiction, nonfiction and poetry. To find national or local writing contests in your area, just do a simple Google search, scour blogs or join a writer's forum. If you win, you can definitely use this accomplishment to help self-promote and get you noticed by publishers— you can also use the cash prize to help self-publish, market future projects, or invest in your writing in other ways (such as a conference or class). Second or third place or honorable mention is also an important bullet point for your writing resume.

Teach an Online Writer's Course

You may not have the teaching credentials you need to actually instruct students earning a degree online, but that doesn't mean you still can't reach out to other aspiring writers and teach them all you know about the industry. Sharing is caring. Not to mention one of the best ways to ensure you're always practicing your craft and getting your name out there is to give lessons on various writing techniques on mediums like blogs. An even better way is to have mini webinars featured on YouTube.  If you get enough hits, you might just be considered an industry leader or "expert"—something that publishers and reviewers will notice.

Network Online

It's hard to become the next Twitter or Facebook superstar, but there are plenty of people who have done so incidentally. Even if you’re not a Twitter rock star, one of the fastest ways to earn credibility is to create some buzz early on using social media. Use these sites as a self-publishing tool to post your short stories or excerpts, build a fan base and interact with industry people.

This guest post is contributed by Angelita Williams, who writes on the topics of online courses. She welcomes your comments at

Photo credit: ©2008 Sarah Scicluna Flickr

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Three Three Oh Yo!

I'm excited to announce The Chipper Writer is now a member of The 330 Blogger Collective, a collection of Ohio bloggers.

So far The Chipper Writer is the only writing blog, and there are lots of other cool fashion and lifestyle/beauty blogs (my other two favorite subjects) you can check out, including:

Fashion or Fiction

The Inspired Lens

Mixed Mama

There's even a food blog (another favorite subject), Made by Mike.

Here's the full list of The 330 Blogger Collective.

Thanks to Jessica Noelle at The Midwest Muse for the invite.  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Five Tips to Find Paying Writing Gigs

Guest post by Sarah Rexman 

The starving artist is a concept most of us know all too well. Everyone wants to be a writer, so the competition to get work or to get published is often stiff. Often, if you do manage to get a writing job, the pay is quite low. After all, everyone's a writer. If you don't want to write for less than minimum, someone else will come along who does.

But you don't have to write for free or for pennies. There are ways to defeat the stereotype. Here are a five tips to find the writing gigs that pay.

Study the Market

There are a wide variety of writing opportunities available, from magazine writing to copywriting to ghostwriting to blog writing. Anywhere you see words strung together, a writer was given a job. The sides of cereal boxes were written by someone who was paid to write.

Understand what the specific market is for the kind of writing you want to do, and learn what the requirements are for breaking into that market. Where do you need to pitch your work? How should you be trying to sell your work? The qualifications for getting magazine work are not the same as those for writing copy. When you know where to look for the right kind of work and the prerequisites for getting it, you increase your chances of success.

Write for the Web

No matter what kind of writing you do, there are opportunities to get published and paid online. Even if it's your dream to write the next Great American Novel, you can make some money and keep your lights on in the meantime by writing informative articles for web sites. Look at article directories (here is a list of the top 21 best article directories), browse opportunities at freelance sites like oDesk, Elance, Freelance Job Openings or Journalism Jobs, and search the classifieds on job sites like Craig's List or CareerBuilder (under the Media-Journalism-Newspaper category) for writing jobs. Subscribe to C. Hope Clark's newsletter, Funds for Writers, which will deliver freelance job opportunities in a variety of genres to your inbox. Of course, not every job will pay well (especially on Craig's List, where you will see lots of writing jobs touting "exposure" or "experience" as compensation. Avoid these.) Be persistent, and you'll find well-paying jobs over time. Funds for Writers offers the highest paying opportunities, and is well worth the subscription price. If you're just starting out and not ready to make the investment in your writing career, Hope also offers free newsletters.

Write in Different Genres

If your heart is set on writing fiction and you can't stand the idea of writing for the web or any other commercial venue, then try diversifying by writing in other genres. Maybe you can't sell your novel -- or it's taking you so long to finish your novel you need to start looking for other paying work in the meantime -- but you can finish and sell short stories or even flash fiction.

Short stories, essays, poems, songs and other genres all have their own markets. If you're not succeeding in the genre of your choice, try branching out and writing something for another genre and you may find success there.

Try Self-Publishing

Amazon, Smashwords, and Lulu have all made publishing a reality for any author who chooses to take advantage of these marketplaces. If you can't sell your novel to a traditional publisher, then you can try selling it yourself. A few authors have found success through self-publishing. Paranormal writer Amanda Hocking was rejected from dozens of publishers before she started selling her novels on Amazon, and she has now sold more than a million copies -- joining the ranks of only a handful of other authors who have sold as many copies. A note of caution: self-publishing is not something to take on quickly or lightly. Before you commit, do your research.

Start Your Own Blog

You don't need to blog for money to use it to find success. Many writers have blogs so they can promote their work. Hosting a blog is especially helpful if you're self-publishing. Share excerpts, talk about your process as a writer or share your thoughts about creativity. Think of your blog as an online calling card for prospective agents, editors and readers.

What other ways have you found to be successful as a paid writer? Share your tips for how you've found jobs and kept your income steady while continuing on your path to publishing success.

About the author:
Sarah Rexman is the main researcher and writer for Her most recent accomplishment includes graduating from Florida State with a master’s degree in environmental science. Her main focus for the site involves new methods to prevent bed bugs as well as bed bugs eradication.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

It's Not Every Day You Get to Meet a New York Times Bestselling Author

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of meeting New York Times bestselling author Taylor Stevens, a thriller writer, and one of my favorites. She visited the Brecksville branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library, did a Q&A and signed copies of her first book in the Vanessa Michael Munroe series, The Informationist, and the second book, The Innocent. The third novel, with the working title The Doll, is due out next year from Crown.

I spoke with Taylor via phone when The Informationist was published, and met her in person for the first time at the library. I'm also pleased to tell you the interview is now available to download via The Writing Show.

I met Taylor Stevens at the Brecksville Branch of the Cuyahoga County Library
If you enjoy thrillers, you will love this series. I devoured The Informationist and The Innocent gripped me even more. Stevens has a masterful way of weaving words to move the story forward and also make you feel like you're in Argentina, right alongside Munroe as she works undercover to infiltrate a religious cult to rescue her friend's daughter, Hannah.

A special thanks to our mutual friend Kim Urig for introducing us.

Kim Urig (right) and me