fresh pickens

Picked fresh. for you. for fun.

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fresh pickens turned 1 today!  Thanks to those of you who have followed me and put up with lack of material some months. I still love this blog, and this fall, I’m feeling more inspired.

fresh pickens turned 1 today! Thanks to those of you who have followed me and put up with lack of material some months. I still love this blog, and this fall, I’m feeling more inspired.

Filed under tumblr birthday

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Mental Mania, Jazz Fusion, and Abu Nazir: Why Homeland is a Must-Watch

I knew a little about the Homeland series on Showtime after watching a few awards shows. I recognized Damian Lewis from Band of Brothers fame (not to mention the little known and awesome BBC mini-series, “The Forsyte Saga”), and of course Claire Danes, who typically plays complex, but girl-next-door-type characters. But for someone who is normally turned off by shows about the war in the Middle East, Homeland is one of the best series on television for many reasons.

It all starts with Marine Sgt. Nicholas Brody (Lewis), a POW of the Iraq War, who has been missing for ten years, is recovered, and welcomed home as a war hero. As Brody readjusts to a broken family with secrets and the rest of civilian life, CIA Operative Carrie Mathison (Danes) becomes immediately suspicious. After an informant tells her an American prisoner has been “turned” by Osama Bin Laden-like al Quaeda figure Abu Nazir, the show progresses, and the audience is kept wondering whether Sgt. Brody’s strange behavior is a result of years of captivity, or something more - that he is, in fact, a soldier who has been “turned” into a terrorist himself.

Claire Danes character, whose crazy genius-like mind and erratic behavior, makes her superiors wonder if she’s the best agent they’ve got, or simply an obsessive-conspiracy theorist. The musical score for the series is this scattered, improvisational jazz that cleverly lends itself to Carrie’s personality and demeanor. Cat-and-mouse games, international espionage, hopeless romance, and terrorist plots that constantly keep you guessing, and even doubting, your own instincts. "Homeland" begins its third season September 29 on Showtime. Catch it on Netflix to play catch-up on Demand.  It’s well worth it!

Filed under Homeland al qaeda terrorist prisoner of war television series Drama central intelligence agency showtime hooray for hollywood

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This Fall, What’s Your Fantasy?

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Summer hiatus.  It used to be a term to describe something our television shows do between seasons.  It’s a term that I use when my book club takes the summers off.  This year, it’s a break that I took from this blog.  For those of you who follow me, my sincerest apologies.  Busy with life, uninspired to write for pleasure, not too excited about anything that I love to share with my readers.  But now that our hot summer nights are numbered, I’m getting my pleasure AND my fantasy on.  I’m talking about pure, un-adulterated, no-holds barred, Fantasy Football.  That’s right.  I’m a chick, that LOVES Fantasy Football, and isn’t too bad at it, I might add.

I love all things football.  I was the little girl, who instead of playing Chinese jump rope with the other little girls, played football with the boys at recess.  So when I was asked to join a fantasy football league 7 years ago, I jumped at the chance.  I was an NFL fan before I got into college football, so I grew up rooting for our local pro team, never missing a televised game.  Yet once you have a fantasy football team, suddenly every game matters; thus, I get to enjoy more football, even if it’s not my beloved Saints.

You don’t need to know much about football to play in a fantasy league.  You can easily go online and google “fantasy football rankings”, print out the top 25 for each position, and you are ready to go to your first draft.  Just like in real life, members take turns choosing a player to fill each position on their roster.  Each players selections are entered into the computer, and each week your team is matched against another team in your league, and you score points based on real live stats, in real time. Oh - and did I mention - there’s usually a friendly wager involved?  Some teams even go all out and have a “Super Bowl Championship” rings made!  

To start your own fantasy league, you need to pick a website to host it for you.  I like Yahoo! Fantasy Football, but most of the major sports media have fantasy programs through their sites, such as ESPN, CBS Sports, FOX Sports, etc.  Did I mention that there’s also an app for that?  Once you create your league, you can invite friends to join (usually between 8-12 in a league) through the host site, and you can get together for a live draft, auto-draft (where the computer picks for you), or live online draft, if everyone can’t get together in person.  Each and every week, you must adjust your roster.  For example, if a player gets hurt in real life and is out for a few games, you have to bench him, and pick up another player to take his place.

Fantasy Football is a fun and social way to enjoy the football season, and gives you so much to look forward to on Sundays.  The draft party is always fun, and you can get together with your friends to watch your players go against each other, Monday Night Football, etc.  My draft is in two weeks - I can’t wait!

Filed under fantasy football football nfl fantasy league sports are we having fun yet

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"No more OUCH, Mom!": How Mason Pearson Changed Our Daily Lives

It was literally just yesterday that I first became acquainted with Mason Pearson.  My daughter and some friends were doing a private swim lesson with a swim coach (who’s son happens to be a famous Soap Opera star - go figure), and one of the other mom’s was brushing her daughter’s wet hair afterward to no protest, cries of “ouch”, fussing, etc.  When I approached the mom about how lucky she was that her daughter didn’t have a sensitive scalp, she responded with an “au contraire”.

This mom, who happens to be a former hair stylist, introduced me to Mason Pearson:  the miracle hair brush that detangles easily, renders hair smooth and silky, eliminates most frizz, and thus no squealing from an unhappy child with a sensitive scalp.  She then brushed my daughter’s hair with this hairbrush, and she didn’t even flinch, notice, or seem to care at all.  

A favorite of many hair stylists, Mason Pearson Brushes were invented in London, England around the turn of the century by none other than Mason Pearson.  The unique rubber-cushion pad, hand-polished cellulose plastic handle, and real boar bristles along with a special nylon bristle invented by Mason Pearson, are what makes these brushes special.  However, there is a hefty price tag: you should expect to pay from $65 to around $130 for just one of these brushes.  Is it worth it?  Many hair stylists will argue that a Mason Pearson brush is all they will use.  For me, it comes down to whether it is worth it to not have the daily morning fight over brushing my daughter’s hair.  Not only is it worth it, but Mom’s naturally curly, fine hair loves the Mason Pearson as well.  Go to their website, and find out which brush is right for you and your family.

Filed under brush hair hairbrush hairstyle hair stylist mirror mirror on the wall maaamaaa fine thin

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Flat Safe Storm Shelters: Putting A Price on Piece of Mind

I am not a native Oklahoman.  Where I’m from, storms have names like Betsy, Camille, and Katrina.  We watch them when they are born, we watch them grow, and when they make landfall, they ultimately die.  We have plenty of warning to get our families, pets, and most valuable possessions out of harms way.  This is not the case with tornadoes. I was watching the tornado LIVE as it was carving out a path of destruction in Moore, Oklahoma.  I watched the aftermath and waited for the same “super cell” to hit our area later that day.  There is only one reason why I didn’t panic, pack up my children, and head down South to hurricane country - my Flat Safe Tornado Shelter.

After watching the devastation that followed in the wake of the Joplin tornado 2 years ago, my husband and I decided that an interior “safe” room wouldn’t truly be safe.  As we watched all of the empty slabs with nothing left on them, and heard some of the tragedies that came out of that storm in Missouri, we knew that going underground was the only way to buy piece of mind for us and our family.  We called Flat Safe, a company located in Yukon, Oklahoma, to install one of their in-ground storm shelters in our home.

The process was amazing, and done in half a day.  They cut a hole in your slab, right there in the floor of your garage, and drop it in.  Unlike other, above ground shelters, this one simply has a “trap” door in the floor of your garage that you can park your car over, walk across, etc.  It takes up no additional space in your garage, which is great when you already have it packed with cars and your husband’s “man stuff”.  While it seats 8, I would say it would fit 4-6 comfortably, but in a storm situation, I don’t think anyone will be too concerned with how much room they have to stretch!  So easy, even my 5-year old can use it!  When we had it installed, we had to register it with the city so if there is a tornado that devastates our area, emergency crews will know exactly where to find us.

Watching the Weather Channel following the devastation in Moore, OK, reporters singled out a few residences, which were no longer standing, but had underground shelters just like mine in their garage floors.  This was all that stood between life and death for these families.  We have already had to use it once this season, and for what I consider the bargain price of $3000, it was worth EVERY penny.  Does that seem like a lot of money?  Sure.  But is it worth your piece of mind?  For us, absolutely.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to those in Moore, Shawnee, and other places that were devastated by these storms.  Oklahomans will persevere.

Filed under theres no place like home storm shelters tornado in-ground Flat Safe Oklahoma storms weather

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Wonderful Salt & Pepper Pistachios: Let’s Face It - I’m Nuts About ‘Em

Pistachio - the pink nut with the funny name, which is also used to make green ice cream? It just all seemed so unnatural! Then I discovered Wonderful Brand Salt & Pepper Pistachios, and now I’m addicted. The funny nut just got serious.

When I play golf with my girlfriends, for some odd reason, everyone gets just as excited about what snacks people brought in the cart that day as they do when someone makes a birdie. The perfect food to eat out in “nature” (biodegradable wrapper), these pistachios do not look like the their finger-staining, pink predecessors. All-natural, heart healthy, and easy to open with your hands, I can sum up the unique flavor experience of Wonderful Brand Salt & Pepper Pistachios quite simply. Imagine if you could take steak and put it into a nut. Yes, folks - I’m as serious as a pistachio. You can find these Wonderful nuts in Salt and Pepper, Roasted, and other flavors at your local Target and major grocery chains. So “get crackin’”!

Filed under Wine me dine me nuts pistachios wonderful brand salt and pepper get cracking snacks

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Turn Around…Bright Eyes…

I love the art of camouflage - that subtle deception mastered by the animal kingdom. Fortunately, through the magic of makeup, it’s also possible for us humans to fool the eye as well. And speaking of eyes, I learned a new make-up trick that makes your eyes look, well, somehow brighter.

Enter white eyeliner. White, you say? Yes - on the inner corners of your eyes - makes your eyes look whiter, brighter, and can make them look even bigger. So even though you may have been up half the night with a sick child, you will look well rested - bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. You can also use it subtly to highlight your brow bone, or even to line the inner lids of your eyes to really make them pop. I found Chanel’s Beryl Waterproof (a must for lining inside the eyes) Eyeliner works well. (I think I recall the color “Beryl” from my Crayola box?) It’s got a slight lavender tone to it, so not stark white, but that just makes it work better with fleshy skin tones.

Make-up tricks are fun, and this one works great for the summer. So wear white - ‘tis the season after all!

Filed under mirror mirror on the wall make up makeup camouflage face eye eyeliner eye makeup bright pencil beryl chanel

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AQ Chicken: And You Thought Arkansas Just Gave Us the Clintons

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I love food.  That’s no secret.  This fact can be testified to over the years by my sometimes dear friend, part-time nemesis - the scale. I’m also from the South, and the true measure of Southern cooking can be found in that delicacy many have attempted, but few have mastered: homestyle fried chicken. I’m talking bone-in, skin-on, finger lickin’ good fried chicken. And I will have to say, AQ Chicken House in Springdale, Arkansas gets it right - and has done so, famously, for more than 50 years.

From the minute you drive in to the usually packed parking lot of this interesting building, you can tell this is going to be an experience, as the aroma of fried chicken draws has you at “Hello”. The inside, with its old Victorian wallpaper, pink carpet, and stained glass throughout, gives you the feeling of going to Grandma’s house, awaiting a meal from some old passed-down, family recipe. Dotting the walls are framed news clippings of the good press AQ Chicken has received over the years, along with hundreds of pictures of famous celebrities, politicians, and athletes who have eaten there - and loved it. There is also a neat US map on the wall with push pins indicating where patrons have come from. And yes, my little Southern hometown was represented as well!

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There are several specialties of AQ Chicken , but perhaps the most popular is the “Chicken over the Coals”. Imagine a giant chicken breast deep fried, then placed over a bed of hot coals for flavor - pure magic.  They also feature some other local favorites, like Charbroiled Buttercrust Chicken (doesn’t that make your mouth water???), Chicken Tenders, Chicken Fried Steak, BBQ Chicken, and also several catfish dishes, another Arkansas specialty.  With traditional sides (all awesome), hot, buttered rolls, and service with a smile, AQ Chicken is worth making the pilgrimage to Springdale, Arkansas, even of you’re not in the “neighborhood” - it’s that good.

So I am sure you are wanting to know, what does the AQ stand for?  Some say Arkansas Quality - others say Arkansas Queen.  I say, nevermind with the Queen - among “chicken houses”, this one is perhaps the best in the kingdom!

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Filed under wine me dine me fried chicken restaurants Arkansas Queen AQ Chicken dining catfish Springdale

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Vegan Leather: Oxymoron, or Simply Fabulous?

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Ah, springtime.  Flowers blooming, baby chicks, Paris, leather …what???  If you are like me - one of those old school etiquette “phobes” who has worshipped at the alter of Emily Post for years - you might resist the idea of wearing leather any other time of year, except between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day.  Yet, I am here to tell you.  I’ve seen it, worn it, and -  it WORKS.

I love wearing leather.  It makes me feel tough, rebellious, and even like a bit of a rock star on karaoke nights.  I stumbled across some “vegan” leather pants on the internet one day last Fall, and I decided to give ‘em a whirl.  Not only was the cost great (around $70 for leather leggings), but the “leather” didn’t look cheap or “faux”.  Not to mention, this vegan leather was lightweight, comfortable, and above all, breathable.

So what is vegan leather you ask?  Well, it is artificial leather, but the difference is, it is made with absolutely nothing processed from an animal.  To some people with a social conscience, this may be a big deal.  To others, it’s simply a trend that not only makes you look good, but you might feel good about wearing it.  

This Spring there are many offerings of leather fashions, many of which are in pastel colors to help “lighten” them up for the warmer season, so to speak.  The lighter colors don’t make the garments seem as heavy.  So while I still refuse to wear white jeans after Labor Day, I WILL be one tough “mama” this Spring in my flouncy vegan leather mini-skirt.  Karaoke bars - beware.

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Photos courtesy of piperlime.com

Filed under leather vegan fashion A Passion For Fashion clothes skirt spring trends

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Just Great Stuff: Betty Lou’s Organic Peanut Butter Powder

I remember singing this little ditty when I was a kid: “Peanut butter and jelly - that’s what I like in my belly!” Decades later, I never would have thought that my belly did not possibly share this sentiment. But if you are like so many of us, peanut butter is a weakness, and there’s very little you can do to resist its creamy allure. (For the record - you are either a “creamy” or a “crunchy” person when it comes to peanut butter, and remain so for life. In fact, I think creamy and crunchy people shouldn’t even mix. Just think of all the divorces that could have been prevented if this preference were the litmus test for a successful marriage! But I digress…)

Thanks to a dear friend, I recently made a discovery that may only rival that thing Sir Isaac Newton called gravity: Betty Lou’s Just Great Stuff Organic Peanut Butter Powder. Powder, you say? But why would I want THAT? Because, when mixed with water, this spread has 85% LESS fat and calories than regular peanut butter, not to mention it TASTES GREAT (for all you Weight Watchers out there - that’s 1 point per serving, y’all). Made from organic peanuts and sweetened with coconut sugar (which tastes nothing like coconuts, by the way), Just Great Stuff Peanut Butter Powder delivers that sweet yet salty satisfaction your “inner child” craves, but without “guilting” your grown-up conscience. Not only does it look and spread just as creamy as traditional peanut butter (consistency can be adjusted based on how much water you add), but the powder also can be used to add peanut butter flavor to smoothies, desserts, or anything else your heart desires.

Just Great Stuff Peanut Butter Powder can be picked up at most health food stores, large and small, or your regional grocery store chain (Also comes in chocolate - yuuummmm). A regular-sized jar will set you back about $8.50, but this is a small price I’m willing to pay to get my peanut butter fix and not let my body pay for it. No more standing in my pantry like a deer in the headlights, busted by my kids with a jar in one hand and a spoon in the other! I’m singing a different tune these days: “Start ‘spreading’ the news….”.

Filed under peanut butter jelly pb&j diet sandwich peanuts organic crunchy creamy pb powder wine me dine me