Problems? We All Have Them…

Problems… there are no shortages. Everyone has them. It’s not unusual for friends and family to come to us with problems that need to be solved. Usually, adults find ways to solve their own problems, they just want someone to listen to them while they talk through them. It makes them feel that we care. Some of us have open arms and lend an ear, others find it rude that anyone would think of dumping their problems onto them. Don’t we have enough of our own? The former may adore her friend, the latter may find her friend “toxic.” Whichever personality type you are; venter, dumper, compassionate listener, irritated unable enabler, the reality remains the same. We all have problems.

What are problems? Webster’s dictionary defines a problem as a perplexing question, situation, or person. It’s an ancient Latin word, problema meaning to “throw forward.” So true. Problems present themselves, over and over again. Over time, we should become pros at solving them and in a sense, we do. But growing older oftentimes means our patience grows thinner, hence a double quandary.

Sometimes problems get so out of hand, spinning our life out of control, that we become frozen and petrified, which only makes things worse. And when multiple persons are involved (as is often the case in family matters) one feels that their once pleasant life may never return. This is the time that we turn to the garden (or nature in the form of a park, the local strip of woods, the backyard or if none of these are available, the local nursery). For it is in nature that we find peace and rejuvenation that give us the best chance of answering the questions that life’s problems present.

Suellen Ocean is the author of many books on diverse topics. Her books are available here:  http://www.amazon.com/Suellen-Ocean/e/B001KC7Z78

Is it Time for America to Re-read the Story of the Country Mouse Who Went to the City?

America has a problem and it’s not pickup trucks or people who drive them. The problem is a closed mind. Has it come down to country people versus city people? Please tell me no. For many reasons. One is that some of us are both. Whether it’s North Coast, West Coast, Rural America, the Heartland, the Eastern Corridor or any other location, some Americans have a problem appreciating the culture of those from another neighborhood. I saw a well-respected journalist on twitter make a crack about Americans who drive pick-up trucks. I’ve got some words for him. Hard-working people who drive trucks are cool. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. There’s no yee-haw about it. Wake up America. The people who put eggs on your breakfast table drive trucks to the feed store. The carpenters who build your home carry lumber in their trucks. The fisherman, the plumber, the surveyor, the musician, the woodcutter… all drive trucks. They’re good people and they’re doing their job, providing for their families and maybe going boating on the weekend. (You need a truck to haul a boat.) Americans today should know better than to think “us” and “them.” It’s just US and some of us drive pick-up trucks.

Suellen Ocean is the author of many books on diverse topics. Her books are available here:  http://www.amazon.com/Suellen-Ocean/e/B001KC7Z78

Women Who Weedeat

Gas powered weedeaters are heavy so a few years ago, when I ran across an electric “string trimmer” that looked like a weedeater, I bought it. They’re light and do a fairly good job cutting the tall grasses around my house. But this year, with all the rain we’ve had in Northern California, I didn’t want to burn out another entry-level weedeater so I bought a Black & Decker 14” string trimmer/edger. It has a 7.5-amp motor. The box says that it “provides high performance trimming of tough weeds, grass and overgrowth.” When my husband saw it, he said, “Wow, you’re going to go to town with this.”

I don’t usually give testimonials for a product but I’m so pleased with this new tool, I had to give a shout out. I’ve been running it all week for at least an hour a day and I’m still on the same spool of string. It has not faltered. Not even once. The other string trimmers, the dinky ones I used for several years, burnt out. Literally. I had to buy a new one every year. When they got hot and started smoking, they were done. This Black & Decker has the motor up at the top, just below the handle, so it doesn’t get clogged with grass. I think that’s what caused the others to burn out. Grass clogged the vents meant to cool the motor. That and they just didn’t have enough amps. Too bad I can’t just let the grasses grow. I hate cutting wildflowers, so I try to leave them as long as I can for the birds, butterflies, moths and bees. But I’ve seen first-hand the damage from a woodlands fire. So, in my neighborhood, we weedeat. Ladies too.

Suellen Ocean is the author of many books on diverse topics. Her books are available here:  http://www.amazon.com/Suellen-Ocean/e/B001KC7Z78

Do Men Read Romance? Yes They Do. They Write it Too.

I am here to tell you that yes indeed, men read romance. I know that for a fact. They are also the first to snicker about it (the men who don’t read it) and I’m sure that’s most men. But hey, everyone watches television and goes to movies and what great movie doesn’t have a little romance? So therefore, millions of men “watch” romance on some level. Yes, maybe some men will get up off the couch if they think they’ve been tricked into watching a chick flick. It just depends on the man and… the quality of the movie.

I know of several men who write romance. They say that they use a pen name. I did not ask what that pen name was but I’d be willing to bet that it is a woman’s name. But guys, before you chose that female sounding pen name, realize that men needn’t be shy about putting their name up there. Front and center on the cover. One of my favorite romance endings was written by a man. I will never forget how William Somerset Maugham lit up the page. It doesn’t matter. Love is love.

Suellen Ocean is the author of the series, Civil War Era Romances. Available here:

Book One, Black Pansy: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1484900278

Book Two, Blue Violet: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B018ZWX0R4

Book Three, Black Lilac: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01EKJMTKA

Book Four, Ellie: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LWVNCTS

Book Five, Rose Thorn: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06X1GN58T

Book Six, Mississippi Wild Blue: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B072L2WWMR

Who Cares About Romance? A Book a Day? Who Does That?

I may not seem shy about my writing but I am. Especially my romance stories. But the publisher in me is telling me to hit the road and promote it. “You just published a new story. Go out and tell the world! Get on the radio, do an interview, irritate your friends and family, stick flyers on cars, spam your email list!”

I can’t do any of that. I just can’t. I’ve had my share of radio interviews, I can talk about eating acorns until the cows come home but Civil War Era romance, who wants to hear about that? Well, apparently, some people do. They love reading romance. My friend told me that when her daughter was a teenager, she “gobbled those things up.” Some women finish a book a day. Wow. That’s some heavy reading.

It’s raining again today. It’s been raining on and off for about six months. I spent many a rainy day trailing Kate Holcomb, Ashcroft Duncan and Mattie O’Brien, the stars of Mississippi Wild Blue. I enjoyed getting to know them. I hope you do too.

Suellen Ocean is the author of the series, Civil War Era Romances. Available here:

Book One, Black Pansy: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1484900278

Book Two, Blue Violet: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B018ZWX0R4

Book Three, Black Lilac: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01EKJMTKA

Book Four, Ellie: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LWVNCTS

Book Five, Rose Thorn: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06X1GN58T

Book Six, Mississippi Wild Blue: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B072L2WWMR

The Expression “Trailer Trash” is Unfair

For years I’ve been hearing the expression, “trailer trash.” It’s absolutely, positively unfair to the millions of good, honest, hard-working people who make a home out of a mobile home. One family I know of, runs a thriving business and sent their son to Stanford. His success at college had a lot to do with the money they saved by living in a mobile home. Buying a standard home has become expensive and out of reach for many families. Especially young families. Living in a mobile home can be a financially wise choice. My husband and I lived in a converted school bus for two-and-a-half years while we built a little house. We wouldn’t have been able to do it without the money we saved living in that bus. It was a fun time.

Mobile homes range from deluxe to modest and people in every state live in them. It is a pity, if their children are made to feel ashamed, because someone coined the phrase, “trailer trash.” Most people probably laugh it off. Their homes are nice and they know it. It does not make someone “trashy” just because they live in a mobile home. The next time you hear someone use that expression, remind them it’s misleading and offensive. We should all be so lucky.

Suellen Ocean is the author of many books on diverse topics. Her books are available here:  http://www.amazon.com/Suellen-Ocean/e/B001KC7Z78

Making Gravy Out of Acorns

My father taught me how to make gravy. Growing up in New Orleans, he worked as a chef around a lot of French cooking. He had plenty of praise for “browning flour.” He called browned flour “roux.” Browning flour takes a little skill because it burns easily. The best skillet to use is cast iron, along with a metal spatula to scrape the flour so it doesn’t burn. A quarter cup of flour is all you need. More finesse is needed to add liquid to the flour but hang in there. You can get the lumps out. Add the liquid slowly and make sure it’s not hot. Cold is best. It will become a paste and with more liquid, it will become the desired gravy consistency. The liquid should be flavorful. Soup stock is preferable, the tastier the better. You can either make your own or purchase it. To turn it into acorn gravy, you only need to add a quarter cup of acorns that has gone through the leaching process I explain in my book.

Suellen Ocean is the author of Acorns and Eat’em, a how-to vegetarian cookbook and field guide for eating acorns. Find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Acorns-Eatem-How–Vegetarian-Cookbook/dp/1491288973

Allergies… Why Do We Say Gesundheit When Someone Sneezes?

It’s easy to forget that oak trees are like a big broccoli floret. This year in California, we’ve had so much rain, the trees are not just bursting forth their greenery, many are bursting with pollen. The timing of the rains, interspersed with intervals of beautiful weather, have enabled pollen and flowers on the trees to remain intact, bringing better assurance that the trees will bear fruit. Whether it’s fig, apricot, almond or oak, the trees in my neck of the woods are the healthiest I’ve ever seen them. Let’s hope there will be an abundance of acorns. I’m hungry for some acorn chocolate cake and there are several squirrels with big bushy tails that are probably eyeing them too. Don’t worry little fellas, I will only take a few.

Beware of the beauty of oak trees in full pollen mode. Even if you don’t regularly have allergies, this year might be different. After several years of drought, mother nature is making up for lost time. Gesundheit!

Why do we say that after someone sneezes? Gesundheit is a German word that means health.  Auf ihre gesundheit means, “to your health.” A sneeze might be a reaction to dust or pollen but it can also be a sign that someone is coming down with a cold. In office environments, it has become almost an obsession to say, “bless you” or “gesundheit” after someone sneezes.

Suellen Ocean is the author of Acorns and Eat’em, a how-to vegetarian cookbook and field guide for eating acorns. Find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Acorns-Eatem-How–Vegetarian-Cookbook/dp/1491288973

Fashion: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… What a Doll

The birth of fashion magazines may have begun in 1321, when a small doll dressed in the latest fashion was sent to the English queen. The dolls became more frequent and those on the receiving end were the nobility. Like our seasonal fashion changes today, the dolls came at the beginning of the spring, summer, autumn and winter seasons. The dolls originated in London, Berlin, Rome, Lisbon, St. Petersburg and of course… Paris. These dolls paved the way for the fashion industry as we know it today. When the doll custom evolved into pictures, they did not originate in Paris. They were created by a German painter, Jost Amman and published in Frankfort.

Suellen Ocean is the author of many books on diverse topics. Her books are available here: http://www.amazon.com/Suellen-Ocean/e/B001KC7Z78

What is a Deciduous Tree?

What is a deciduous tree? It’s a tree that loses its leaves in the fall. In the autumn, it loses all its leaves and becomes a wintry looking thing, one of the skeletons of winter along the landscape. It isn’t the frost that kills the leaves, it’s a natural process that the tree goes through while it makes chemical conversions through the winter, to return in the spring with a blast of bright green shoots that turn into the fresh greenery of the new season. The oak is a perfect example of a deciduous tree. However, the California Live Oak is an exception, keeping most of its leaves all winter long, leaving nesting and hiding places for birds and squirrels.  Suellen Ocean is the author of Acorns and Eat’em, a how-to vegetarian cookbook and field guide for eating acorns. Find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Acorns-Eatem-How–Vegetarian-Cookbook/dp/1491288973