New Year, New Plan – 2018

Another new year is upon us, and with that comes reflection of the past year and a chance to start anew. If you want to see how last year went, you can check out my recap here.

This year, there are some changes coming to my life. The biggest worth mentioning is that I am starting classes to pursue a career change – from library tech to teacher. I’m not sure what else is in store, but I need some goals to help make it a good year, right?

  • Reading – This year I am doing an alphabet challenge (check out my page to see the details and my progress). I will also be challenging the students at my school to do this when we return in January. You can also track my reading log on goodreads.
  • Photography – I’m not planning a 365 day challenge again, as I have proven many times I’m not disciplined enough to do it. Instead, I will drop it down to a 52-week challenge, meaning that I will strive for once a week. There are actually two challenges I found that I think will help me achieve this. Continue to follow me on Instagram to see my weekly captures, along with everyday life.
    • 52 Frames and Brooke Murphy’s Project 52
    • Another thing I started this year and hope to continue is #LifeCaptcha. This takes place on the 19th of each month, and every hour at :44 past (or as close to as I remember), I capture a part of my day.
  • Writing – I am still planning on doing NaNoWriMo, and will continue to write stories on my own. I’m also planning on journaling, though how that will look like I’m not entirely sure. I’ll be sure to share prompts if I decide to follow something consistent. I feel with the career change coming up, it would be a good idea to keep my head focused and give me an outlet to unwind after what is sure to produce stressful days.
  • Health/Exercise – I’m not going to commit to weight loss or anything like that. Instead I will just be striving for a more healthier me.
    • Exercise wise, hubby and I recently joined a martial arts studio and are learning Tai Chi (okay, so hubby is relearning as he did it as a child, but I’m new to it). Classes are twice a week, plus a weekly private lesson we share. In addition, we started biking last year and its something we both still enjoy, so when the weather is nice, I hope to continue that at least once a week.
    • Health wise, my plan is to increase my water intake (did you know you should drink more than 2 glasses of water a day? I struggle to even get one some days!) and continue to make healthy food choices (does that mean ice cream is off the list?).
  • Sewing – I sewed my first piece of clothing last year and would like to continue learning to sew and make my own clothes. Hubby and I have the desire to get back into the Renaissance Faire scene, and I’m pretty sure making my own costumes would be cheaper.
  • ??? – This is left blank because I’m sure there is something else I want to do or something I’ve left out, and that would go here. Maybe its something that will come up as the year progresses.

What about you? What’s your plan for the new year? Any goals/resolutions you are striving to complete? Let me know so we can encourage each other!



Recapping 2017

Alright readers, it’s that time in our lives – the changing of the years. That famous time for looking back and evaluating our lives and making promises of things to come. So, let’s do just that – let’s take a look back and see what I wanted to accomplish and if I reached my goals …

  • Reading – I set a goodreads goal of reading 25 books (not including ones I read as part of library lessons) and I did succeed in that. I also wanted to complete a reading challenge set forth by Modern Mrs Darcy. She created two challenges and I set the ambitious goal of completing both. I did not reach that goal, only completing one. You can read about that here, as well as seeing reviews on both this blog and visiting my goodreads account. Click here to see my “year in review” via goodreads.
  • Exercise/Health – I did not complete a marathon and have actually put that idea on hold indefinitely as I continue to heal an old ankle injury, but I did make strives on being a more healthier version of me. One major accomplishment in this area is that I have biked one-way the entire length of the American River Bike trail (about 32 miles in length) in a single trip.
  • Photography – I continued participating in Fat Mum Slim‘s daily photography challenge, and once again failed to complete an entire month, or even an entire year of photographs. But I did capture some images I’m sure will be favorites in future years. Below are my top 9 photos on Instagram.vinotea_full
  • Writing – I again participated in NaNoWriMo, though I did not finish my novel. I also continued writing for fun, along with book reviews.
  • Blog – I don’t think I posted much more than book reviews this year, but thanks for sticking around regardless.
  • Personal projects – Still a work in progress making my house my home and I’ve taken up sewing as a hobby. The letter project is still in progress.

DIY – Earring Holder

I have a holder I picked up at Wal-Mart a while back and I was never quite happy with it, as, like many earring holders, I have to take the back off of studs to hang them up.

A shot of my old earring holder

This was annoying to me as it made it easier to lose earring backs and it seemed like more work than I was really wanting to put in. I wanted something like you would find in a jewelry box for rings.

Related image
Found via google search for ‘earring holder’

I searched for a how-to on making my own holder, but all I could find were YouTube videos, and I would have preferred to have it in picture and print format. Thus the nature of this post – fulfilling a void I saw, a picture and word how-to instead of in video format.

Let’s get started, shall we?

First up, materials …

That’s it! That’s all you need for this project. Easy peasy, right?
The box I did sand and paint first, only so it would go with my color scheme, but if you already had a painted box or drawer from a jewelry box you wanted to use, that would work just as well.
The foam curlers I found at the dollar store. Just make sure you get them all the same size, as I ended up getting two different sizes. The amount you’ll need depends on the size of your box.
The fabric I picked up from the local fabric store and it’s about a yard.
And of course, your handy dandy glue gun.

Now to the nitty-gritty part of the project, making the box.

As I mentioned above, I sanded and painted my box. If your box is good to go as is, then skip this step.
My color theme I’m working with is purple and grey (it’s the same as the rest of my house and it’s slowly working its way into the bathroom as well, and I wanted this box to fit with that scheme).

Once your happy with your box, or even before you paint, if you are going that route, you will need figure out how many rollers you’ll need exactly. It’s easier to do this before the gluing starts…
For this box (about 8 1/2 x 11 in size), I needed 5 and 1/4 going across, and 7 and 1/2 going down.
Once you know how many you need, the gluing can begin.
I started with gluing the rollers together end-to-end.

Once all my rows were glued, I measured them on the fabric to make sure it was long enough, and cut the extra as needed. I then put a row of glue at the top to hold my rollers in place. Keeping things tight, I rolled the length of the fabric until my foam rollers were covered, adding a row of glue on the edge to seal it.

When I did my box, I didn’t glue the fabric at the end of the rows, though you could if you wanted to.

Once my rows were all wrapped in fabric, I then stuffed them in the box. Yes, you do want it tight. For added strength, you can glue the rows to the bottom of the box.

And voilà! You have an earring holder! Here is mine with and without earrings so you can see how it all fits together. Now, no more taking backs off. Just slip them in the space between the rows and you’re good to go.

I designed mine to go lay or hang horizontally, but if you wanted vertical, I do believe you would get more rows, though they would be shorter in length.

This box is designed to lay flat or be propped up. To hang it, you would need to add a backing (like for a picture frame) or use some 3M strips. I can’t verify which is stronger or a better choice as I haven’t tested that theory yet. Admittedly I’d probably choose the backing, because it seems more durable to me.

Any questions, let me know. Otherwise, enjoy your new earring holder! And please share with others you think might be interested in it.



If I Was Your Girl

One of my goals this year is to complete a reading challenge. Click here to see the details of the challenge.

Below is my review from Goodreads for the book If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo. This book falls under the “book nominated for an award in 2017” as it is one of the Stonewall winners in the Children’s and Young Adult Literature category.


If I Was Your GirlIf I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A YA novel about a transgender girl, written by a transgender girl, but still a message anyone can relate to, about realizing that everyone is hiding something, and we all deserve the chance to love, and be loved, both by ourselves, and by others.

I liked how every few chapters the author would go back in time in Amanda’s life. Our past may hurt, but the good and bad things help shape our future self. I don’t think Amanda would have been as strong her senior year in her new town if she had an easy process.

Here’s some quotes/passages I liked in the book that I think are universal to anyone …
1) “Everyone around me, I realized, was living some kind of lie…Maybe secrets and lies were a part of life; maybe everyone had something they were lying to themselves about, or something they were hiding.” -pg 89
2) “You can have anything…once you admit you deserve it.” – pg 180
3) “For as long as I could remember, I had been apologizing for existing, for trying to be who I was, to live the life I was meant to lead. … I realized, I wasn’t sorry I existed anymore. I deserved to live. I deserved to find love. I knew now-I believed, now-that I deserved to be loved.” – pg 273

View all my reviews

2017 goals/plan

It has been 7 months since I last posted. To those still subscribed, thanks for sticking around. As my website title suggests, this blog is a sneak peak into my life, and for the last seven months, you experienced the “lack of interest” or ability to follow through part of it. Yep, there are times where I am so gun-ho about something, but somewhere along the way I fall off and never get back on. I’m improving in some areas, but in other areas (like this blog) I still need work.

Okay, so as the post title suggests, this post is putting my 2017 thoughts on paper for some accountability. I mean, if I write them down and put them out for the world to see I’m more likely to stick to them, right? Here’s hoping.

It is worth noting that the plan is a general outlook, not much in specific detail. Resolutions are notorious for failing after the first month, which is part of why I’m so late coming forward with this  – I wanted to give it time to mull over and be sure of what I wanted to put out there. As well, I don’t want to set myself up for error. The details of how each goal would look will vary by month and day, but the overall goal should be accomplished by the end of the year.

So without further ado, my goals/plan for the new year …

  • Reading – I work in a library, so I should be reading for fun (not just books I read to my library classes). I found a few lists I like, so I’ll be compiling them into one master list (I’ll share that once I’m done, probably its own tab). I hope to also be sharing what I’m reading on here, but also through “goodreads” website. Hopefully this year my mind will be broaden by reading books I’ve never read before as well as books out of my comfort zone.
  • Exercise/Health – I would love to lose weight, but overall I hope to be ‘healthy’. Also on the list is completing the CIM (California International Marathon) in December. This was part of the plan for last year, but injury put it on hold. By training earlier and slower, hopefully this will finally be achieved. (The idea of a marathon has been a few years in the making.)
  • Photography – I will continue to utilize Chantelle’s  photo a day challenge to capture the world around me and seeing it in a new way. However, if I should not hit 365 days in photos, I need to forgive myself.
  • Writing – So, if you follow my instagram, you’ll see that I published a short story/novel. I want to continue this hobby. Stories will be from my own head, though I also did purchase a writing journal prompt book to help with ideas. As well, I will continue to be part of NaNoWriMo. For those wondering, the story falls into the erotic romance category, but I will make sure anything I publish here will not fall in that category.
  • Blog – Of course I will continue this blog, with hopefully more captures in my life than last year, featuring my writing, photography, reading, as well as some posts about my library world.
  • Personal projects – Hubby and I are in the process of turning his childhood home into a home we can call ours. As well, I started a photo letter project last year (thanks in part to one of Chantelle’s photo months) and hope to have it ready to send to family by christmas (I will share the finished project, but don’t promise anything in the middle).

What goals or plans do you have for 2017? Here’s hoping the year is one you can look back in a positive light at the end.

New approach to fitness

First, let me apologize for slacking on my posts 😦 I think about it most days, but it always ends up on the back burner. I do promise to get better, especially since school ends this week and I’ll have two months off for summer (minus the month I’ll be working a few hours and the week I’m away for a conference), but you get the idea – more time to actually type a post.

Besides, I have a focus for my posts now, at least for one day — I am starting a new fitness program to keep you  updated on!

There is a local running group (SacFit – check them out if you’re in the area) and I have recently joined them. And I mean recently! Our first meeting was only this past Saturday. The basic structure to the workout part is that Saturdays are the group workout and they will probably be the longest of the week. Then there are three mid-week workouts to go along with that. The first few weeks while us newbies get a feel for things, these mid-week workouts are on our own, but after a few weeks, they’ll start supervised workouts that may be more based around hills, speed, and such. The schedule is emailed every Sunday so we know what we’re supposed to do and where to meet when the time comes.

This past Saturday as I said was the first workout. In reality, it was our pace timing . They have 7 color groups – 3 for walkers, 4 for runners. Within these groups, we are further broken down by our pace to those that are similar – this way we don’t feel like we’re being held back or holding others back. For your info, my pace time was 12:41 for the mile, and I jogged the whole thing! I should find out my color/pace group later this week…

As I said, the schedule is emailed out each week. Here is my schedule for the week …

Sun – rest
Mon – 20 min easy pace
Tues – 24 min moderate pace
Wed – rest
Thurs – 14 min easy pace
Fri – rest
Sat – group workout

So rest days are that – days to relax. Cross-training and strength training can also be thrown in (or on run days), but no running on those days!

Easy pace is described as a conversation pace (you know, like walking down the street and talking with your homies). Moderate pace you can still talk, but there’s a few more breaths  in the sentence.

What I find funny about this is that as running is still new to me, anytime I run it would be described at “moderate” based on my breathing. So on days like today, I just try to keep it slower and allow myself more walk breaks. On days like tomorrow when its a “moderate” pace, I’ll probably try to push the run part more.

Okay, so I joined a running group – there’s got to be an end-goal to this, right? Yep! My goal, besides being able to keep a better pace while running in general, I plan on registering for my first marathon. Yep, you heard right folks – I am signing up to do 26.2 miles straight! Specifically I’m planning on doing the CIM – California International Marathon in December. Now, it won’t be a total leap as I have done a half before (13.1 miles), but that was about 4 years ago, and if you know my exercise history, you’ll know I’m not the most consistent in the training field.

But I think having this group may just be my ticket. The last time I tried something like this was with Team in Training through the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. If you’re familiar with this program, then you they also mix in fundraising along with their training. Not only did I have to do training, but I also had to try to come up with money. So when it became clear that the fundraising part of things wasn’t going so well, the working out part went down the drain as well.

But this group is different – there’s a flat fee up front, but then I don’t have to pay another dime or fund-raise for anything! Okay, so I do have to pay for any race I want to do, but I get to pick the races, so I can choose the distance and location. Plus, they are tailoring the program to my fitness, as opposed to TnT where we all did the same workout despite how fast/slow we could run. And to be honest, I didn’t get a lot of support in improving my running skill, and I can already get the sense from just one group workout and a side conversation with the guy who came up with this group, that I will at the very minimum walk out a better runner than when I walked in.

So there you are – the next chapter of my life. Stay tuned each week to see how I do with the workouts and what else is in store. Hope you’re ready for a fun, tiring journey. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of sweat to go around 🙂

Memorial Day 2016

Today’s post actually has two parts to it. The first is a story my mom wrote about the time she learned her father had died. The second is a speech my grandmother gave at my uncle’s church yesterday. It is similar to one she gave at her home church in 2010. And she has given me permission to share it with you today. Please enjoy them both. My hope is that by sharing these stories you understand a little more about the meaning behind Memorial Day for those affected by it.

For those who don’t know, Memorial Day is for those who served in the military and gave their lives – Veteran’s Day is for those who previously served in the military but are still alive – Armed Forces Day is to recognize those who are actively serving in the military. For me personally, there are four men (pictured below) who would celebrate these days – my grandfathers Charles and Roy (both you will learn a bit more about today), both who are now deceased, my father who served in the Air Force until the 90s, and my brother who is actively serving in the Army.

Today, let’s not just enjoy a day off and have a party. Let’s also remember the families who have lost a loved one from defending our country.

The Jeep at My House
by Crystal Dawn Mann

May 22, 1969 was a central California spring day filled with beauty–blue sky, warm sun, singing birds, blooming flowers, playing children. The Vietnam War was in full swing. To three of the children in the neighborhood, this meant Daddy had been gone a long time, and this was a time to play war, like Daddy was. The weapons were squirt guns, spray bottles, and the seeds of the four o’clock flowers, which resembled miniature hand grenades. The neighbor’s yard was the war zone today as 6-10 children ran through it shooting each other with their squirt guns and spray bottles, and throwing their miniature grenades at each other. Guns and grenades only scored near misses; they never actually killed anyone.

In the midst of this, a jeep drove down the street. As the children watched, it came to a stop across the street from where they played, right in front of our house. In the jeep were two “army men” dressed in their nice green uniforms. The children watched as the “army men” walked up to the house; my two younger brothers and I thinking it was Daddy with a friend of his. We watched, and then continued playing war. A little later we watched as the two men came out of the house, got back into the jeep, and drove away. We decided that Daddy had just left to take his friend home or to a motel, and would soon be back home with us. The fact that it was still 2 months before his scheduled arrival home never entered our minds.

As the jeep drove away, one of my cousins came out of the house and told my brothers and I that my mom wanted us to come into the house. Imagine my surprise when I walked into the house and saw my mom on her knees in front of the console stereo, crying. After all, moms don’t cry, right? When I saw my mom crying, I knew my world had just fallen apart, even though I did not know why she was crying.

My brothers and I went over to our mom. She told us that our Daddy had died in the Vietnam War.

I remember that spring day in central California–people crying, heavy hearts, a deep sense of loss.

Memorial Day 2016
by Mary Bernnice Sampley

I hadn’t gotten the kids up for school yet when the door bell rang. There was a man at the door I hadn’t seen before but he was holding something in his hand. He confirmed my name. He then handed me a yellow envelope and asked me if I was home alone and I answered that my kids were with me. He asked if I minded if he waited with me while I read what was inside and I assured him it was okay.

Inside was what looked like a “cut and paste” letter and it said, in part, “I am sorry to inform you that your husband, SFC Charles A. Jones, has been seriously injured in the chest, abdomen, and all extremities. There is grave cause for concern.” Little did I know when I heard that door bell ring, that it would change the entire course of four lives.

A number of telegrams followed the first one. My pastor came over and prayed with me. Many people were praying that he would recover from his injuries.

A few days later, with several of my family with me in the living room , an olive-drab car pulled up in front of my house. Two uniformed men walked to the door and I invited them in. I asked them to have a seat because I knew why they were there. They wouldn’t sit with us because they were on official business. I tried to put them at ease but that wasn’t going to happen. They proceeded to give me official notice that my husband had died from his injuries. I was sitting on the arm of the couch and put my head in my hands and some tears came. My dad came over and put his hand on my shoulder and I sat up and didn’t shed another tear for several weeks. No one was going to think I was weak and couldn’t handle things. I had been alone too many times in our nine years of marriage to give in to a few tears.

Shortly before the first telegram arrived, I received a record that I had played several times. On it was a song that became my theme song. It’s entitled “I Will Not Forget Thee”.

“Sweet is the promise I will not forget thee,
Nothing can molest or turn my soul away;
E’en though the night be dark within the valley,
Just beyond is shining an eternal day.

Trusting the promise I will not forget thee,
Onward I will go with songs of joy and love,
Though earth despise me,
Though my friends forsake me,
I shall be remembered in my home above.

When at the golden portals I am standing,
All my tribulations, all my sorrows past;
How sweet to hear the blessed proclamation,
Enter, faithful servant, welcome home at last.

I will not forget thee or leave thee,
In My hands I’ll hold thee,
In My arms I’ll fold thee,
I will not forget thee or leave thee;
I am thy Redeemer, I will care for thee.

I would kneel in front of the stereo many times a day and play “my” song.

It was upsetting to learn that by the time I received the first telegram, he had already been dead a few days. I wondered at the futility of prayer. Why did we bother when it was already too late?

I met Chuck in Hawaii on R&R about 3 weeks before his death. It was a special time for us and it was difficult to say “good-bye” again. A part of me walked on to that airplane with him.

Chuck was an advisor with the Advisory Team 75 in My Tho, Vietnam, in the Mekong Delta. he loved the job he was doing and he loved the Vietnamese people he worked with. He said if the kids and I had been there, it would have been his best duty station.

He went out with his troops one morning and just after leaving the hovering helicopter and running across the rice paddy, the VC (Viet Cong) detonated the land mind that cost him his life.

I later learned how extensive his injuries were but there is no need to detail them here. I wish I hadn’t investigated to get more information.

I had a lot of questions after he died. I asked God why He couldn’t have protected him. He could have prevented that mine from going off. God, why couldn’t you heal him? God, why, why, why? Then I would feel guilty because “you’re not supposed to question God!” I told my pastor how I was feeling and he told me it’s okay to question God. He said he believed questioning is a type of worship because we are reaching out to God, not turning away from Him.

I also felt guilty because I didn’t cry. I had a relative who had tried to get into her husband’s casket, and cried up a storm. I thought something was wrong with me because I didn’t behave that way. My pastor, in his wisdom, said “Generally, people who react that way are reacting out of guilt.” That calmed my inner voice that was telling me there was something wrong with me.

A few years later, I learned something else. God is not obligated to change the laws of nature for me. He could have prevented the mine from going off. He could have arranged for someone else to be at that place at that time. He could have caused the mine to malfunction, but a chain of events had already been put into motion and God was not obligated to change those things. God tells us that if we confess our sins, He will forgive them. I believe that God’s only obligation to me is to forgive my sins when I ask Him. The other things He does for me are extras.

Chuck died May 22, 1969, during a week of heavy casualties. Life magazine published several pages entitled “The Faces of The American Dead in Vietnam” on June 27, 1969. It showed the pictures of 242 men who were killed in that particular week and Chuck’s picture is in that article. (the cover and Chuck’s photo is pictured below)

His funeral was on June 6, 1969, the day before my oldest son’s 6th birthday. Crystal was 7, Terry was 5 and Stuart was 4. They didn’t understand why Daddy wasn’t coming home. No more wrestling, playing, going to the park, going to church. A future without a dad. It was hard enough for me to fathom a future without him; for them, it had to be extremely confusing. I was a widow at 27. I didn’t know what a widow was supposed to be or do or even how to explain everything to my kids. Widows were old ladies in the 60s and 70s, not someone in their 20s.

When Chuck died, the Pastor told the church that these three kids would need some men to step up and be a part of their lives. There were good intentions, but that never happened. My sister and brother-in-law lived in the same town and he did a lot for us and we spent all of our holidays with them. My other family were all scattered across several states and couldn’t be there and none of the other men made time to be a father-figure to them. The Bible tells us that God will be the husband to the widow and the father to the fatherless but we needed someone with skin on, too. I believe they still have problems that are associated with not having a father.

As most of you know, my kids stepdad passed away a year ago. Roy and I were sitting in the Oncology waiting room to be called for his appointment. The TV was tuned to the channel with all the judge shows. I think Divorce Court was on. I don’t understand how you can watch something like that and know what’s going on and have an internal dialogue and keep both of them straight, but that happened to me that day.

The Gaither’s wrote a song several years ago titled “It Is Finished”. I’ve always equated this song with the spiritual battle. The war between Satan and Jesus was finished and we, along with Jesus, were victors. But that day, this song said something different to me.

These verses, especially, spoke to me:

“Yet in my heart the battle was still raging,
Not all prisoners of war have come home;
There were battlefields of my own making,
I didn’t know that the war had been won.

Oh but then I heard that the King of the Ages,
Had fought all life’s battles for me;
And that victory was mine for the claiming,
And now praise His name I am free.

It is finished! The battle is over,
It is finished! There’ll be no more war;
It is finished! The end of the conflict,
It is finished! And Jesus is Lord.”

That day, it was as though Chuck was saying to me, ‘The war is over and has been for a long time. Let it be over. I’m no longer in a hospital bed in Saigon. I’m not in a box in the cemetery in Modesto, California. Let me be in the now. Don’t keep me back there in your mind because I’m not there. I, who grew up with nothing, have a mansion. I’m running and laughing. I’m still singing loud but now I’m on key and I’m talking with all the people we knew. My body is whole now. Don’t keep me in the past because I’m not there.’ You see, many times when I thought of Chuck, I thought of the funeral, the cemetery, the accident. There were things I talked about and remembered but my initial thought would be his death. I forgot that his real life didn’t end that day in Vietnam. He went on to a more complete life and he is living in the present, not the past. That day, watching Divorce Court, another part of my healing took place.

I gave this talk at my home church for Memorial Day. While I was reading through it, making a few changes, I realized I was doing with Roy the same thing I had been doing with Chuck. I thought about all the illnesses, all the ambulance calls, all the hospital visits. When we have a loved one who has been ill for a while before they die, our thoughts tend to drift back to those last days. We are thinking of and feeling things that happened back then. Allow your loved one to leave that place and in your mind let them live in the present and know that they are experiencing wonderful things TODAY. And I now accept that Roy, too, is experiencing freedom he has never experienced before.

Memorial Day. Day to remember those who fought and died for their country. Day to remember fathers, sons, husbands, daughters and mothers who gave the ultimate gift. Day to remember broken and grieving families.

But through the empty days and sleepless nights, God still says,

“I will not forget thee or leave thee.
In My hands I’ll hold thee,
In My arms I’ll fold thee.
I will not forget thee or leave thee.
I am thy Redeemer, I will care for thee.”

And to my kids I would say, “I’m so sorry you had to know your Daddy through others’ memories but I want you to know he loved  you more than life itself.”