Procrastination, Last Semester Baking and Night Owls

I love to bake.  Not cakes and things that have to be decorated, but I love to bake bread: rolls, croissants, cinnamon rolls, scones, baguettes (which are a staple in the McBride house), matzah, tortillas, challah bread, etc.  I have tried bagels and donuts.

Tonight, img_2065-2instead of catching on up on my Aroma Chemistry and my final Aromatherapy class, I am making Pull Apart Bread, just because of some damn photo I saw somewhere on Instagram when I got up.  I found Ree Drummond’s description and decided to give it a chance using the cinnamon roll recipe from my old school Better Homes & Gardens book from 1989.  Obviously, a high school graduation gift.  And it fell apart years ago.  I don’t remember it ever really being bound since I started using it.

This semester is my last for my Diploma of Aromatherapy.  After the first couple of weeks, I got behind because of moving, then no Internet at the house, then travel, then just so much chaos of getting settled in.  I am going to have to file an extension because I am not giving up on these two classes.  I have come too far.
But for now… It’s baking time so that I don’t have to worry about much tomorrow morning besides throwing it in the oven! (Plans changed. It was cooked tonight.)

Here are their directions for Sweet Rolls, with a few edits from me because it didn’t list ingredients at the top of the recipe:

4 to 4 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 package yeast (I used 2 1/4t. out of a jar)

1 cup milk

1/3 cup butter (I will never suggest margarine)

1/2 t of salt

2 eggs


Combine 2 cups of the flour and the yeast.  Heat and stir 1 milk, sugar, butter and salt until warm (120º to 130º F) and butter almost melts.  Add to flour mixture with eggs.  Beat with an electric mixer on low for 30 seconds, scraping bowl.  Beat on high for 3 minutes.  Using a spoon, stir in as much of the 2 to 2 1/3 cups of flour remaining as you can.

Turn out on a lightly floured surface.  Knead in enough of remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough that is smooth and elastic (3-5 minutes).  Shape into a ball.  Place in a lightly greased bowl, turning once.  Cover and let rise until double (about an hour).  NOTE: I don’t knead that much anymore because I let my KitchenAid Artisan Mixer* do all the work.  I mix it until it’s the same consistency and then let sit for an hour.  Although, if you bake breads a lot, I’d go with a KitchenAid Professional Mixer*.


From here, I go onto Ree’s directions**.  Here’s where I start, though:

1 stick Butter, Melted

1-1/2 cup Sugar

3 Tablespoons Ground Cinnamon


3 cups Powdered Sugar

2 Tablespoons Butter, Melted

1 Tablespoon Maple Extract or Coffee or 1 t vanilla (I used Maple syrup and coffee)

1/3 cup Whole Milk

Dash Of Salt

“Roll out dough onto a floured surface. Drizzle on melted butter and smear so that it covers all the dough. Mix together the sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle it all over the surface of the dough. (Dough should look very covered.)

Cut the dough into 6 to 8 strips, then stack all the strips into one stack. Cut the stack of strips into 6 slices. Place the stacks sideways into a buttered bread pan. Do not cram the slices into the pan. (You may have a few leftover.) NOTE: I cut this in this recommended way the first time and ended up with smaller stacks.  On the second batch, I only cut into 4 strips initially and then cut the stack of strips into 6 stacks. You can see the difference in the two bread pans.


Cover with a dish towel and allow to rise for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, checking at 20 minutes to make sure it’s not getting too brown on top. It’s important to bake the bread long enough to ensure that the middle won’t be too doughy, because if it is it won’t pull apart easily. If the top looks like it’s getting too brown, cover it lightly with aluminum foil for the rest of the baking time. REPEAT: IT’S IMPORTANT TO BAKE THE BREAD LONG ENOUGH FOR THE CENTER TO NO LONGER BE DOUGHY.


Remove the pan from the oven when it’s done. Run a knife around the edges and take the bread out of the pan. Mix together the icing ingredients and drizzle over the top, allowing it to sink into the crevices. Serve warm or room temperature!” (Pull-apart bread, 2012)


I started to prep and cook tomorrow, but we are night owls, so I am cooking these at 11:30 pm.  If River eats them while we are sleeping…

The icing tastes delicious, by the way!  River told me I had reached perfection again.  The kids gobbled down and licked their plans part of the one with mini pull-part bread.  Hunter said it could be considered breakfast because it was after midnight.  Our kids.  Thank goodness for our years in virtual school.


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** No Material Connection





The hardest thing I have ever done in my life

We had to go ahead and develop a GoFundMe account after all we have been through over the last 15 years.  We told a bit more of the story there about Geoff’s health but will continue to tell through this blog in the future.

He was in the hospital this morning (12/10) and was diagnosed with more bronchitis and possibly non-smoking related emphysema.  We are awaiting more details.

Update on 1/10/16: We achieved our goal, so I took the account down at the end of December.  We couldn’t have made it through without the help of our community, loved ones and strangers.  The outpouring of love was absolutely incredible.  We are so humbled and appreciate everyone’s help.

We are still waiting on figuring out how to get Geoff’s lungs better.  He can’t be on extra steroids because they stop working and they affect his Addison’s Disease.  He’s just muddling through right now.

The other factor is that health insurance in Florida is not the greatest.  Our plan caused the specialist not to take him before Christmas (although they didn’t tell us that until we called).  Then, instead of seeing him, they referred him back to his primary care doctor.  Honestly, we have been going to a family doctor who doesn’t take any insurance for the last few years.  He can’t refer him to the specialist.  Geoff’s been out of town this week, so we will start working again on that tomorrow.

I won’t get started on the crappy healthcare system.  I just wanted to update this post.  Happy Sunday!

Ebbs and Flows of Income and the Impact on Life, Health and Education (personal reflection)

This is my reflection on events in my personal life at this point and American society as a whole as it comes to the importance of education and health and the impact of income.  This isn’t some statistical post about how socioeconomic status can effect the health and education of people.  It’s personal. Nor do I provide solutions besides an opinion of what should be available to the public as a whole.  It doesn’t solve everything.  It is just my opinion.

The education and health of my children is incredibly important to me.  It’s why I, as their mother, have made certain choices that go against the grain of American culture.  The kids know that their education is key to their success.

We also focus on their nutrition because what goes into their bodies is as important as what goes into their minds.  It does not meant that they don’t get junk food or convenience food at times, but it’s rare that I don’t cook one or two full meals for them a day. Our largest meal is at lunch-time, for time’s sake, the ability to have everyone at the table and to eat at the best time so that we don’t go to bed with heavy food in our systems.  We don’t buy that many processed foods. Tortilla chips and crackers, plus sandwich meat are probably the most purchased process foods.  I bake everything from muffins to bread and croissants.  You can see on my Instagram how much value we place on good, homemade food in our home.

When the girls were in public school, they did not eat school-provided lunches.  I sent lunch with them every day.  I wanted to make sure that they were fed well and they had no desire to eat what they saw on their classmates’ trays.

Beyond love and security of family, giving the kids a good start on their health and education is critical in my mind.

As a self-employed, artistic family, Geoff and I are constantly working.  I write contracts for private events and confirm gigs while cooking lunch.  I am constantly on email or social media from my laptop or smartphone.  My “office” is in the nook next to the kitchen and about 3 feet from the living room. I am in school and helping with their school, chasing a toddler and so on from the time I get up until I go to bed. Multi-tasking is just a normal component of my life, so is being there for our children.

For the past 9+ years, we have been living in a tourist, beach town.  It has been a blessing in the fact that Geoff began singing full-time again.  Although there are tourists almost year round, there is a definite period where live music has a higher demand.  During March and half of April, life is super busy with music.  Then from Memorial Day to mid-August, it’s crazy busy again.  Other than that, it’s pretty slow, besides a number of private events in the fall and holiday season.  During the slow times, we struggle to keep things going and during the busy times, we play financial catch up.  By the time we have caught up, it’s the end of the season.

Honestly, it feels like the movie “Groundhog Day.”  Lots of people will comment, “You live in paradise, how can you not love it?”  Well, besides tourist industries and the military, there is not much here.  And then there’s the thought expressed, “Well, Geoff got a lot of press from The Voice, so why can’t he just get booked anywhere else?”

Booking takes money.  Agents take money.  If we are constantly playing catch up and slow down, there is no wiggle room.  There is no breathing room.  There is a lot of talent is this world that doesn’t get noticed because there is no financial backing.  This is a subject for a book, or at least another post.

When it gets really stressful, which it does, my focus on helping the kids focus on school simply is not there.  My focus is on keeping the bank account in the green and a roof over our head.  Our son needs our help the most.  He is in 4th grade and at a make it or break it point.  We have just switched him from public virtual school to “homeschooling” virtual school (still under Florida Virtual School), which means that for now, he doesn’t have the high-stakes testing until we move him back into the public version sometime in middle school.  The girls are more on an independent basis, but monitoring where they are in their studies is key.  Also, making sure they are taking the right classes each semester takes a lot of time and research.  Either way, I need to have the focus and energy to be there for our kids and their education.

Last night, it really hit me how so many people deal with this on a constant basis and they are expected to be able to focus on the education of their children.  I can say that we are better off than a great deal of people and so I cannot imagine being expected to push my children in their education if this was my reality 100% of the time.  I felt humbled and more focused after that realization that this was not going to happen anymore to our children.  I am also more sympathetic to those that don’t have a choice.

I have kept up my focus on their food and health, but the greatest impact I have seen has been on my health.  The stress of the ups and downs of living here and dealing with the roller coaster ride of income has really caused me to become very unhealthy.  I am horrified and disgusted at the effects the stress has had on my body.  And it’s not as easy and just take time out for exercise.  When life gets insanely stressful, there is no extra time for yoga, walking or a bike ride.  Don’t mention taking PureBarre classes to me.  I don’t have the time or the money.  (Honestly, I don’t like classes anyway because I am an introvert on many levels.  Yes, I’m one of those extroverted-introverts.  So is Geoff.)  I am working to find ways to reduce my cortisol levels in my body, which is the core of my health-related issues right now.

Again, I feel for those who are stuck in this hamster wheel of lack of income and have no way to get out.  For the most part, they do not have the time, energy or money to take care of their health.  They are just trying to keep food in everyone’s bellies, so the quality does not matter on many levels.

I wish that our country would finally realize that we need a stronger education system and not one that is federally mandated but then left up to the state and county levels to work out the details.  I do not have the answers as to how to do this, but something has to change.  I do feel that the U.S. is too large, as a whole, to answer the education problems.  It will most likely be regional answers and that doesn’t bode well for certain geographic areas of our country.

We do need single-payer healthcare and not the system that we have now that focuses on illness management for a profit.  Real health needs to be focused on.  Get rid of health care that celebrates “pink ribbons” for “non-profits” that make a few people a lot of money and do not find cures.

We also have to look at our food system.  Many countries in the world have banned the very foods and ingredients that are making Americans ill.  When are we going to realize that you can’t put just anything into your body and still be healthy?  When does real food become more important that the profits of companies? Our digestive health affects the health of the rest of our body.  So does the level of stress in our lives.

If people did not have to worry about the basic necessities, it wouldn’t mean that everyone was the same, had the same income or had the same opportunities, but it would mean that we would have more stability in our personal lives and our society.

So, there.  No specific solutions to the societal problems, but just one woman’s hopes for her family and for the families of the U.S.

For me and my family, it’s onward and upward.  We have goals we are working very hard to reach and we will get there.  Time to get out of “Groundhog Day.”

The long-awaited, personal journey begins

Tomorrow starts a new beginning in my education.

I have been interested in natural healing since I was 19.  I was at The University of Georgia and had side-splitting pains that caused me not to be able to work or go to school.  The flip-flopped diagnosis of kidney stones, not kidney stones from the University Health Center really made me realize I could take care of my own body, most of the time.  (BTW, it was kidney stones, as confirmed by a Urologist later on.  Also, I had them in high school and wasn’t diagnosed correctly. It was the same pain.)  Stopping soft drinks really kept me from having any more problems with kidney stones or UTI’s.  Anytime I went back to drinking a lot of carbonated drinks, I would have health problems.  But this health situation made me look closer at how I could really take charge of my health overall.  I began working at a number of health food stores.

When I finally graduated from UGA with my Bachelors in Sociology, I already knew that wanted to to straight into natural health.  Aromatherapy was my love, as was Herbalism.  I moved to Atlanta with the plans of going to a massage school.  I applied to the American College of Healthcare Sciences way back in 2000-2001.  With getting married, being pregnant and all the wonderful new parts of my life, I didn’t follow through.  I did keep up with my love of natural food and our family has followed that path the whole time.

After going through grad school for my MBA last year and then re-igniting my love from aromatherapy via Neal’s Yard Remedies, I decided that I needed to go back to the start.  I needed to reapply to ACHS.  I did and tomorrow, I start my studies to get my diploma in Aromatherapy and become a Registered Aromatherapist.  After that, I will focus on Herbalism and Holistic Nutrition.  Truly, I can’t wait!

With that, I really want to focus on safety with Aromatherapy.  I know that there are a couple of companies out there that promote unsafe practices with essential oil use.  The oils that the companies produce are not in question, but how the companies push their consultants to recommend oils in unsafe practices, like without dilution, internally, to children who are too young for certain essential oils, etc.  Here is one of the best books that I can recommend.  It’s Robert Tisserand’s Essential Oil Safety. He is the “go-to” on all things regarding safe use of essential oils.  I have constantly referred to The Art of Aromatherapy for years.

For me, I believe there is a balance between holistic and allopathic medicine/healthcare.  I am all for integrative medicine.  You will never hear from me that MD’s are useless or that natural heals all.  Geoff’s journey with eczema and Addison’s has shown me that drugs are needed at times and “a cleanse” can be really dangerous to some people.  I don’t think that one diet serves all or that everyone can take any essential oil safely.

I can’t wait for my diploma and to be able to educate others about the benefits of essential oils, herbs and nutrition.  Right now, I won’t claim being an expert.  I am just a student.  Of Aromatherapy.  Of Family.  Of Life.

There is a time and a place for everything.  I will stand by that throughout my life.  Thanks for seeing me along my journey.

Breathing through it all, coming full circle, puppies, plus other musings

As you might know, this last year and a half has been crazy for us.  I can’t believe I haven’t even had a breath to be able to post on here, although I don’t think I had the brainpower, either.  We are still working through a lot of the issues that developed during the “record label gone bad” era of 2013-2014.  Hoping to have complete, no looking back, closure on that soon.

Grad school took a lot out of me this last year.  It gave me a lot, but it took so much more.  It wasn’t for me.  That doesn’t mean school isn’t for me, but getting my MBA at a very typical business school is not the path that I ever need to take again.  More on that in a moment.

Years like this last one make you realize what is important to you.  They also refocus you.  While in grad school, I rejoined Arbonne, as I had posted in November.  In doing so, my life was returned to me full circle, but on a different path.  Earlier this year, I was introduced to a company called Neal’s Yard Remedies and in the U.S. it is Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic.  It is the most amazing, ethical company I have ever seen and I left Arbonne immediately as a working consultant.

With NYRO, I am not selling my soul for a dollar.  Nothing against Arbonne or any other company but after being in the natural healthy & beauty industry, I know too much to really be able to “love” a company that’s not completely the real deal, where I am concerned. Full disclosure is incredibly important to me regarding ingredients in products.  Fair Trade, non-GMO and organic are also important to me. Safe practices in education for the consultant and consumer regarding product usage are also high on my list of priorities.  I am promoting the life that I want to live and not some product line that is overpriced, selling someone a magic oil or asking anyone to join something that I am not fully comfortable with.

Once that occurred there was a snowball effect.  I realized that I was really struggling through my MBA.  I had great grades besides 1 C in my second accounting class, but even I hated being around me while in grad school.  Because NYRO is based on aromatherapy, I realized I could go back to one of my first loves. I re-applied to aromatherapy school and was accepted! (I had originally applied to the same school in 2001-2002.)  I start in the fall and cannot wait.  It has been my lifelong dream to become a Registered Aromatherapist and either a Master Herbalist or go into Holistic Nutrition.  First, aromatherapy.

Now, the dog.  Let’s just say that the kids have been begging for a puppy, especially River.  All she wanted was a dog.  Nothing more.  So, we started looking.  And we tried to foster through the local no-kill shelter.  But the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day, a musician friend of Geoff’s said his neighbors had 2 corgi puppies.  I started texting the owner.  On St. Patrick’s Day, we went to see the two, only to make a decision on which one we wanted.  Little did we know we’d come home with the runt of the litter in our arms, but she stole our heart and the breeder said we could take her home.  Her name is Lili.

wpid-img_20150521_234454.jpgI had never really paid much attention to corgis at all and now we see them everywhere in the media.  Plus, everyone who meets her loves her little bouncy craziness.  She’s stinking adorable, although I can’t wait for her to get through the ankle biting, pooping in the house stage.  Those habits are insane.  Plus, she thinks she can make friends with Bella, our almost 22 year old cat by barking loudly at her.  Well, first of all, Bella can’t hear much anymore, but she can still hiss and swipe at a feisty puppy.

So now we have a 5 month old puppy, 21+ year old cat, 3 year old guinea pigs, plus the 2 year old, almost 9, 12 & 14 year olds.  Life is certainly never boring and many times, head-spinningly loud.  When Geoff wants quiet, I think he must be in the wrong damn house!  When is that ever going to happen?  That’s why I try to get up before everyone, so that I can at least have 45 minutes with no one talking to me and drink my coffee.  That rarely happens and no one understands my glare at them over my mug in the morning.

One thing I know about the last year is that I don’t want our income based solely on music.  It’s to volatile and the highs and lows are too much to handle, especially mentally and health-wise.  We cannot live another year like that.  We have lived 9 years with music being “it” for income. It’s a roller-coaster that I want off of.  That doesn’t mean that I want Geoff to stop music or that I will stop running the “back-end” of things, but it means that it’s going to be balanced as soon as it possibly can with my income.  I want to “give” Geoff the ability to perform when and where he wants to, not just “gigging” because he has to.

I am excited about my new path because it allows me the flexibility to still be mom to these growing kids. Life with them under our roof doesn’t last too long and I want to be with them, even when we are getting on each others’ nerves, while we have a chance.

River will be in 9th grade this year and already have 6 credits going in .  That means that she can graduate at 16.  The same with Zoë when she is heading into high school.  They will do associates degrees through dual enrollment until they are 18, but it makes me realize how time really does fly. Hunter has just a little bit more of elementary school and Zuri is still a little, head-strong fireball.

I hope to be posting more over the coming weeks and months. Time to get my head out of the sand and move forwards.

Online learning for the McBrides

I haven’t been posting as much as I’d like to because early this summer, I got a wild hair and decided to go back to school.  I have this list of “I Nevers” and I swear it’s just part of my path in life to have to do every, single thing that I said I’d never do.

One was to never set foot near the Redneck Riviera.  One was to marry a singer/musician.  Another was to have another child after the third.  Another was to ever go to business school.  Well, guess what!?!?  I am in grad school, getting my MBA.  Life is funny like that.

Honestly, I had to and I am enjoying it.  I was tired of being considered “the stay at home mom,” even though I run a business, keep up with 4 kids, etc.  The last straw was seeing how someone can really take advantage of a business out of pure selfishness.  Back up against the wall, so I woke up one morning with the realization that I had to go back to school.

With the kids in virtual school through our state’s Connections Academy program, I knew that the best choice for me would be online school.  I’ve finished my first class with a 97, have an A in my second class & I have about 2 years and 12 weeks left to go.

River didn’t have much of a summer because she took pre-algebra & French 1A through this summer.  She said she’d never do that again, but she’s pleased with where it put her in school.  She will have 3 high school classes in 8th grade: Honors Algebra 1, French 1B & 2A and Honors Art History.  She’s also taking an intro to fashion design class and a personal finance class (later this fall) via, too.  Zoe is taking French 1 & personal finance this year in 6th grade, along with her Juilliard music class.  Hunter has permission to possibly accelerate in math this year.  Third grade is a huge jump from 2nd, so I am actually glad he’s not in gifted classes yet.

wpid-img_20140716_214125.jpgVirtual public school is pretty incredible.  People typically just equate what we do with homeschooling and really there is a huge difference.  People always say, “You are homeschooling the kids, aren’t you?” and I say, “No, they are in public school via virtual school.”  Although Florida has homeschooling options for virtual school, we choose the public school route.  The kids have teachers.  In elementary school, there is one main teacher & then a couple of others for art & P.E., but middle & high school have different teachers for every subject.  They have weekly live lessons with their teachers and classmates.  They have projects and presenations that they have to turn in through drop-boxes.

For people who need flexibility for their family but aren’t comfortable with homeschooling, I really suggest this option.  Connections Academy offers free public school in many states across the country.  We homeschooled for a while, but I was so overwhelmed with having to always come up with curriculum and keep up with everything.

It is simply important for parents to make the best education choices for their children and their families.  My best advice is to know all the options and do your homework.  There is no one path that fits for everyone.