Kevin Hellriegel's Blog of Worthless Advice

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Monthly Archives: July 2013

Another Fun Trip to the Post Office

Please, only 300 pieces of mail at one time!

The other day I was lucky enough to enjoy being stuck behind a woman putting 300 outgoing pieces of mail in the drive through mail box at my local post office.  I was delighted further as she did this while talking on her cell phone and used only one hand to accomplish a two handed task.  Very talented, indeed!

I think she merely forgot that there was a line of cars was behind her.  Maybe it was her day to “try” to be a better human being.

And who am I to complain?  My measly six pieces of mail were in no hurry to be placed in the mail box.  My cell phone sat in its resting spot, lonely and sad I wasn’t using it.  I should defer to her great abundance of common sense when it comes to mailing out numerous handfuls of letters.  Who would actually park their car and carry one box of 300 letters of mail into the post office?  Clearly, a moron like me who has nothing better to do!  That is probably why I wouldn’t follow my own worthless advice when it comes to mailing out some letters.

However, I know I need to be more patience in my dealings with the general public.  I sat in my car, allowed her to finish her task (without honking my horn), and she moved on.  I then mailed my letters and proceeded to be got behind her again as she sat waiting to make her turn out of the mail drop off lane.

Hmm, which way is she going to turn?  Maybe she told the person she was talking to on the phone because I didn’t have a clue.  But wait, her turn signal comes on and she is turning left.  Yes! Left at the worst possible time of the day!  Excellent!  We shall never get out of here!  And with her attention split between driving and chatting on her cell phone, this should take close to FOREVER to make the left turn.

A good five minutes later, she makes her left turn somewhat safely and we make our right turn.  Another fun trip to the post office is over with.

Why Scout Camp is Awful for Helicopter Parents….

Ah, Boy Scout camp….the dirt, the camping, the lack of good bathrooms.  It is all the experience of growing up and not having your parents hovering over you every minute of the day.  Some parents enjoy sending their child off to summer camp (hey, free babysitting and they get fed three times a day? What isn’t to love?).  Others are quite anxious that their little baby is headed off to summer camp.  I can understand that.

 Compared to school, summer camp is the helicopter parent’s worst nightmare.  At school, the parents know what their child is doing.  They can view their child’s grade online.  They can volunteer to be the room parent.  If their son messes up, they can email the teacher, then do a follow up voicemail to make sure the teacher received the email, and then write a note to the teacher (and send it back in the child’s homework folder), and to make sure the teacher got the note in the homework folder, the parent can come to the classroom before school starts.

What do you mean my son didn’t earn anything while at Scout camp?

Of course, it doesn’t matter that the email the helicopter parent sent was at 4:30 pm on Friday afternoon, the voicemail they left was at 4:35 pm, and the note they wrote was at 4:37 pm, and when they show up at school 35 minutes before school on Monday morning, they wonder why the teacher hasn’t replied yet.

Now, these helicopter parenting skills just won’t work for summer camp.  Scoutmasters don’t answer emails and they don’t return voicemails.  At the last summer camp this past week, I had no Smartphone coverage.  And I like it that way.

During summer camp, helicopter parents don’t get a daily report from their kids about how their day went, they don’t know what they are eating at every meal, they don’t know what their bunk looks like, and they don’t know what they are working on.  It is a wasteland of no information, a fog bank of the unknown, and a storm of mystery.  Their helicopter is grounded.

What happens to the poor scout when their helicopter parent isn’t around?  They survive.  They wear the same clothes all week long (using these clothes as a bib, towel, and Kleenex).  They don’t think of showering, they spill numerous food items on themselves and others.  Brush their teeth?  What is that?

Now what kind of Scoutmaster would let this “Lord of the Flies” attitude prevail?  The same Scoutmaster who gives up his vacation time to go to summer camp with your child.  The same Scoutmaster that pays to attend summer camp (yes, I pay to watch your son be a screw up).

Our job as Scoutmasters is to remind your son to put on sunscreen, drink his water, get to his merit badge classes, and wash his hands.  If your son chooses not to do the fore mentioned items, that is his choice.  Yes, it is a stupid choices but it is his choice.  We’ll ride his ass and remind him about ten times a day but it comes down to him doing it, he has to be self managed.  I’ll tell him to take a shower but that doesn’t mean he’ll do it.  And when I ask him if he has taken a shower, he’ll say “yes” but that shower was the one back at his house three days ago.  When I see him on the trail, I’ll ask him if he has been drinking his water (from the water bottle he left back in his cabin) and he’ll say “yes”.  And when I see him sunburned and ask him did you put on sunscreen, he’ll answer “yes” (he put in on yesterday….doesn’t it last three days because he didn’t take a shower?).

A Boy Scout's bed...a helicopter parent's nightmare!

A Boy Scout’s bed…a helicopter parent’s nightmare!

We are constantly reminding them to do things for their well being but that doesn’t mean they will actually do it.  They’ll walk off and pretend to do something but they don’t.

Now we all know that the helicopter parent would be hovering and following their scout back to their tent, making sure they grabbed their toothbrush and toothpaste, escorting them back to the water spigot, watching them brush their teeth, and then walking them back to their tent and carefully instructing them how to place their toothpaste and toothbrush away.

Will they die if they don’t brush their teeth?  Probably not.  Will they be shamed into brushing their teeth after EVERYONE tells them that their breath smells like the inside of an outhouse?  Yes, most likely they will brush their teeth after other scouts say they can smell their stinky dead rat breath from across the table.  Peer pressure can be a wonderful motivator.

As I’ve said before, not letting your child do things on their own will lead to their failure in school, at Scout camp, and in life.  Scout camp is the week long test of how you have failed as a parent.  Does your child come back from summer camp smelling like the sewer plant down the street?  Does your scout come back with no merit badges completed because he can’t do them without you?

One of the worst mistakes you can make is packing your scout’s backpack for summer camp.  If you pack it, how is he going to know where anything is in his backpack?  Have him lay out his clothes, you double check, and then he can pack his own bag.  Then he can find everything at summer camp and his Scoutmaster won’t be asking him where his toothbrush is.

Land that helicopter now.  Let your son do things on his own and learn from his triumphs and failures.  Let him be peer pressured into doing the right thing.

 As always, your witty comments and vast knowledge are welcome!

Boy Scout Camp: The Torture Continues

We just returned from another week at Boy Scout Summer Camp.  As with all the years prior to this, a few of us always think of ways we can improve our experience as adult leaders.  This is our reflection time.  This is the time when we think back and review all of our mistakes and ask ourselves “Why?  Why do we still keep doing this?”

Our view from our campsite.

Our view from our campsite.

Over the next few days, I hope to gather my notes and thoughts about summer camp.  Last year, I didn’t blog about my experience because I was lazy.  Hey, I’m honest.  It is one point in the twelve points of the Scout Law.  There were good stories there but I just couldn’t get my butt in gear to write about them.

This year I actually spent 20 cents and purchased a 70 page spiral notebook binder (it was on sale; I’m frugal).  We had our brainstorming session where no idea is a bad idea (unless I tell you it is a stupid, really, really stupid idea and why do you even think you should be talking?).  And I now have some material to work with.

These thoughts will be wrapped into a Guide Book for Assistant Scoutmasters.  A rookie Assistant Scoutmaster will definitely benefit from my vast amount of knowledge.  I’m pretty sure jaded seasoned scoutmasters will also enjoy it as well.  I’m sure all Scoutmasters will find it helpful as well because frankly, it will be awesome.

This Guide will be directly to the Assistant Scoutmaster.  I know you probably want me to write about the head honcho job: Scoutmaster.  Here are my thoughts about the Scoutmaster job: I don’t want to be writing or commenting on a job I don’t do. We’ll stick to the back up Scoutmaster’s job that I know.  A tale about taking naps and wearing flip flops.

Overall the Boy Scout camp we did this past week was a great one.  We trekked all the way from Kent, Washington down to Tillamook, Oregon and attended Camp Meriwether.

Camp Meriwether's Beach Enterance

Camp Meriwether’s Beach Enterance

Camp Meriwether is located right on the Oregon Coast and we had a truly wonderful campsite location.  Our campsite was on a bluff overlooking the beach and I must rave about how amazing the view was.  I was able to see the ocean waves from my bunk.  Each night I fell asleep listening to the waves crashing and the sounds of four scoutmasters snoring away….

We had great weather through the whole week.  Not too hot, not too cold.  We really lucked out.

As always your comments are welcome!  Put down the milkshake and hit the “Like” button!

This is the Yard that Child Slave Labor Built!

My neighbors are having phase 2 of their landscaping yard done over the next few days by professionals.  As you can imagine, I feel that this is cheating because everyone knows that if your children haven’t broken their little backs, toes, and fingers making your yard awesome, then you haven’t done anything worth talking about.

This Do-It-Yourself (DIY) work or die attitude has been passed down from generation to generation on both my mother’s side and father’s side of my family.  It is in my blood to see my children (and the neighborhood children) slave away moving rocks from one side of the yard to the other.  I compare of my efforts of creating a wonderful yard to that of the English aristocrats that keep their rose gardens all prim and proper.  I often wear my big fluffy hat as I garden in the flower beds while I wait for my afternoon tea.

Crumpets anyone? photo from http://www.vancouverislandgardentrail.com

Nothing impresses on small children the value of hard work when they can look their hands and see the blisters forming.  To get that visual of a day’s hard work in your hand is nothing short of accomplishment in my mind.  And a few stones that fall onto their toes once in a while will teach them that you always need proper footwear at my house.  Hobble home young underage yard worker, tomorrow is another day of back breaking labor!

One of my favorite moments of teaching is when a child starts to cry after being worked to the bone.  If you can push them a little bit more, they can learn how to push themselves to success.  My motto: If you ain’t crying, you ain’t trying.  They need to learn their boundaries and how to push themselves past the point of self imposed limits.  Success comes to those that push themselves (or are pushed by a slave driver parent).

Valuable lessons abound in making your yard an oasis for you to enjoy.  One of my favorite lessons is to change the project midstream so all of the hard work my kids just did was for nothing.  All of their hard work building that fence is gone once I realize I want the fence three more feet to the left.  Kind of reminds you of your boss at work, doesn’t it?  See!  Another lesson from adult life brought home for children to learn from!  Can you hear your boss now?

“Johnson, remember how I had you write that twenty page report on how we can make our workflow more efficient?  Well, we are switching focus again so your goal oriented results report isn’t going to cut it now.  You’ll have to do it all over.  And I need it by Monday.  Don’t forget the cover sheet on your TPS report too!”

So my request to move the fence three feet to the left is just preparing them for the future.  Am I a great teacher or what?

To get the most out of child workers, you should also offer incentives.  You don’t actually have to follow through on the incentives, but you should offer them.  Tell them: If you finish that 65 foot long rock wall by tonight, I’ll take you to the lake tomorrow!  As you can imagine, when they fail to finish you can tell them that you would love to take them to the lake but you can’t reward failure.  That just wouldn’t be fair.  By setting unrealistic goals, you know that you’ll never have to follow through with your rewards.  Again, another great realistic life lesson for your kids to experience.  Their future boss will do the exact same thing to them in their future job.  They will hate him as much as they hated you as a child.  Yet, they won’t quite make the connection until they are older and in therapy.  By then it will be too late.

You should view your yard as an outdoor classroom.  It is always changing; as are the lessons you are teaching your children.  The neighborhood kids can be invaluable teaching tools as they are extra help for the really big projects and to show the concept of favoritism.  You can treat them better than your own kids. This is to show your kids that they need to work even harder in a fruitless effort to gain your love and attention.  Always tell the neighbor kid he is doing an awesome job but ignore your own kid.  Then sit back and watch your kid step up their efforts.  The sad look in their little faces as they wait for that one positive comment from you to justify their existence is a reward in itself.

As summer rolls on, you should always look to the future of child labor.  Even if your kids are grown up, you can tap into your grandkids.  What if you are young and have no children?  Consider the neighbor kids or even a cousin or two.  Never pay a professional when you can easily watch a half hour TV program and have kids there to assist you in your landscaping dreams!

Ah!  Rock walls....

Ah! Rock walls….

How to Keep the Inmates Happy: Teaching Your Children Good Manners!

One of the best parts of being a parent is getting rid of your kids.  During the summer, some parents like to pawn their kids off to the grandparents for various lengths of time.  The problem with grandparents is that your kids have access to the telephone or electronics.  This means they have a way to bug you and complain about how bored they are.

I know some parents that like summer camp where there is no electronics.  The kids actually have to wait for a letter from their parents for any sort of love.  And heaven forbid that your child actually has to write to you.  With their terrible spelling and texting skills of a monkey, you can totally blow off their requests to come home early.  When you pick them up at the end of camp and they are complaining “Didn’t you get my letter?”  You can honestly say that you couldn’t understand their strange “texting” language and the handwriting was so bad you couldn’t read it anyway.  But it did make an awesome nesting place for their pet rabbit.

I’m pretty much a fan of both ways to get rid of your kids during the summer.  Honestly, I like to get rid of my kids all the time.  If I can’t send them to a friend’s house, it means I’m a failure as a parent.  If no one wants my perfect kids, then I know they must be some of the rudest worst brats around.

With skill and considerable talent, I have trained my children to be polite and well behaved. When they are at other people’s homes, the friend’s parents love them.  They use their manners and we get reports back raving about how wonderful they are.  Man, are my kids the greatest actors or what?  Because if you saw them at home, you’d think they were from two rival gangs in prison, ready to jab a sharpened toothbrush into the other inmate’s neck! 

I keep asking other parents if they are talking about my kids when the good reports come back. Are they sure they have the right kids?  Because the facts and observations they make certainly don’t match up with my in home data that I collect EVERYDAY.

Now and then, my kids will surprise me and get along for an extended period of time.  Usually I start to think that maybe they do love each other and that we should take a vacation together.  It is a moment of weakness on my part to think this way.  I think a 2-3 hour car ride with two rival gang members is a smart idea.  Now who is the fool?

Yard Projects

When summer rolls around here in the Pacific Northwest, I like to do some landscape projects.  With my trusty little Ford Ranger pick up truck (that seems to haul everything I throw into the back of it) and my little old shovel, I’m off.

A few summers back, I managed to build my shed/office.  Then the next summer, I built my new deck with huge 8×8 posts (because it looks way more manly than little crappy 4×4 posts).  I’ve also removed all of the old railroad ties that the previous owners used for landscaping and replaced them with rock walls and rock borders.  A lot of hard work, sweat, and tears have been poured into the various landscaping projects.

And the sick part: I like to do this kind of stuff.  It gives me a wonderful piece of mind just working on yard projects.  I escape from having to do any photography related projects.  I just enjoy the sunshine and the outdoors.  I plan for my yard to be low maintenance.  I want my son to be able to mow the lawn without using the weedeater to trim back the grass.

I also don’t want to worry about watering any plants.  If those plants need my help to survive, they are pretty much doomed.  I don’t even water the lawn.  What’s the point?  It will grow back anyway.

 

Ahh, summer time! Photo from http://www.holemanlandscape.biz

Camping: Your Solution to Making Sure Your Kids Don’t Live With You Forever

Right now your children might be young and you think (hopefully to yourself) that they’ll accomplish anything they set their mind to.  Or maybe your kids are teenagers and your neighbor told you that their child didn’t blossom until they were 27 or 28 years old thus giving you a little piece of hope.  Or maybe your kid is 20, has dropped out of community college for the third time (in three attempts), lives in your basement, plays Black Ops all day, and will look for a job “tomorrow” (after he has his kill streak up to 70).

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but…the hard sad fact is that most likely your kids are losers and will be living in your basement for the rest of their lives.  Oh sure, they’ll move out for a year or maybe two, but they’ll be back…or will they?

Hmm, camping!

Let me introduce the concept of camping and how it can save you from having your children live with you forever.  Camping is where middle class people go out to the local state park and pretend to be homeless for a few days.  We like to cook our meals on a propane cook stove, wash our dishes in three bins, and use disposable paper plates (screw the environment).  We sleep on an air mattress and enjoy the light cotton sheets that cover us on a warm summer night.  We throw up a nice tarp and call it our outdoor living room/dining room/kitchen.

We set up a fairly well stocked kitchen, fill up some coolers with ice, and tell ourselves that camping is fun and easy.  Once we are out roughing it out in the wilderness of the State Park (with power hook ups, clean water, and a flush toilet a few steps away), we forget that we are camping.   We are on vacation and that we have time to be relaxing under the summer sun.

But will your loser children learn anything from your summer camping experiences?  Probably not.  They are too busy running around with their friends, sun block smeared across their faces, and rat nests for a hairstyle.  They’ll fling themselves into their summer sleeping bags (which are worthless during the other three seasons) and sleep a peaceful night’s sleep.

 This is one of those teachable moments you always hear about from other parents brag about but you never get to do because you are too busy yelling at your kids.

By taking your children camping, you are teaching them that camping is a possible housing solution in their near future.  The day will come when you will want to kick them out.  It might be a few weeks later or a few years later, but the day will come.

And this is a very good thing!  Once they reach the ripe old age of 18 or 30 and don’t plan to do anything with their lives, you can give them the ultimatum: do something or move out!  Heck, it’s your house and your parents didn’t give you a free ride to be a slacker, why should you treat your children any different?

With their summer camping experience under their belt, they will think that they are prepared for the real world.  Kick those leeches to the curb, have those children enjoy all four seasons that this great planet offers us (unless you live near the Equator or Australia or maybe South America). Allow your children the pleasure of sleeping in an igloo where the temperature is just above freezing and the drip drop of the melting snow roof falls on their thin, inadequate summer sleeping bag.  Then they can realize their boots are frozen because they forgot to keep them inside their sleeping bag. Now they have to push their wet socks inside their frozen boots.  Has the fun started yet?

Cooking under the open sky!

Imagine the joy your children can experience camping in the torrential downpour of a spring rainstorm.  Everything they own is soaked with the constant rain and there is no place dry in their tent site.  Nowhere to hang up the soggy towel to dry it out, everything they own is wet and damp.

And where do they plug in their Xbox and TV?  Grand Theft Auto V is going to play itself!  Do they run the power cord from the bathroom to their tent?  Oh, the problem solving they’ll have to do!

What about showers and personal hygiene?   No more 20 minute showers when you have to put in a $1 for a 3 minute shower at the state park.

Where will they wash and dry their clothes?  What happens when the sleeping bag gets a little stinky?

Either your children will quickly learn that this isn’t the lifestyle they want and will do anything to live back indoors OR they will decide that this lifestyle isn’t that bad and they like living in a tent for the rest of their life.  Either way, you’ll be taking the unknown part of your child’s future housing out of their destiny.

Add another “Win” for parenthood in your scoreboard for Parents!

 As always your witty comments are welcome!  Or just hit the like button below.

Are You A Crazy Writer? Then maybe I’ll follow your blog!

What Blog Style Is the Best?

 I follow a number of different blogs to give me a cross section of reading material.  Some bloggers swear, others are inspirational, some are crazy, others suffer from their craziness (mental health issues), a few are funny, and others are sarcastic like me. 

Crazy?

 Like a hobo attracted to the railroads, I love a good train wreck of a blog.  The suffering the writer has to overcome to get their feelings and thoughts into words is one of the most attractive things about writing.  My life in comparison is quite dull and drab, so I vicariously live misery through others.  Undoubtedly, this frees me up to be more sarcastic in my own personal life.

 Everyone’s time is valuable and I appreciate you reading my worthless advice blog.  Personally, my blog postings tend to go from sarcastic to informational at times.  I also try not to post just to say I posted “something”.  Of course, I could post anything, anytime because my blog has “worthless advice” in the title.  It gives me a free-for-all writing attitude.

Oh, you don’t even know the half of it!

 Of the blogs I follow, I enjoy the bloggers that have mental issues the best. This isn’t to say that you don’t have mental issues yourself; you just don’t share them enough.  The ones with mental issues allow me to step into a different world.  What is abnormal to us is normal to them and vice versus. 

 Remember when someone does something crazy or insane?  You say to yourself “What were they thinking?”  Most likely, they were crazy and that was their normal path of thinking.

 By reading crazy people’s blogs, you get to step into their head.  These bloggers gives me an insight in their craziness.  They wouldn’t blog and write about their issues if they didn’t want you to read about them.  While I may be not in the same writing arena as they are, I still like them.  I even follow a blog about a miniature horse that gives advice.  Who is more crazy…me or the miniature horse giving advice?  But I must admit, the advice is usually pretty good…..

 Thanks again for reading and enjoying my blog.

4th of July: Let’s blow some stuff up because we are Morons!

Ahh, Happy 4th of July to all my readers here in America (and the rest of you across the world).  This is the American holiday that we use as an excuse to buy fireworks and blow stuff up all in the name of freedom.  Americans like to buy fireworks, and shoot them off in the false belief that we are being safe.  It is really just an excuse to buy dangerous flying toys and injure ourselves.

As a typical guy, I love explosions just like the next hot blooded male.  Show me a great movie with lots of explosions and no realistic plot, throw in some hot babes and I am all over it.

However, as a fairly intelligent person, real life fireworks scare the crap out of me.  I have no real expert knowledge of fireworks, how they are made, how much gun powder goes into them, etc.  It is out of my range of expertise and I’m OK with that.  I know that they explode and I have a good chance of getting hurt.  That is all the knowledge I need to have to tell me to stay away.

Already this morning, I saw on our local KIRO TV news program (in the Seattle area) we already had someone headed to the hospital because of the homemade fireworks bomb he made.

Now, I enjoy watching the professional fireworks shows but I’m not into lighting fireworks off myself.  Over the years, our family has had the bad luck of fireworks tipping over and shooting right at us.  So it isn’t that the fireworks are dangerous as much as the people lighting them off.  I think my living room is a perfectly safe spot to watch the fireworks and not get blown up by untrained monkeys.

Don’t get me starting with the “safe” fireworks like sparklers.  Who thinks that handing a child a piece of burning metal is a smart thing to do?  Can I see a show of hands, please?  Call me a downer but a sparkler is burning at 2000 degrees F and can burn metal.  Hmmm, seems like a safe toy for a child.  My daughter had the sparks from the sparkler fall on her foot a few years back.  No permanent damage but she now knows the dangers of fireworks.  And don’t I feel like a stupid ass parent?  You bet.

Don’t get me started on sparkler bombs.  Just Bing or Google sparkler bombs and you’ll get tons of videos, how to articles, and step by step instructions to make a dangerous weapon of death.  I watched a few YouTube videos and when you have a lot of questions and most of the answers from the makers are “I don’t know” then you know you are dealing with a bunch of idiots.

I am all for free speech and free knowledge but there are some stupid people out there that don’t need to know how to do this stuff.  They just aren’t smart enough to handle the knowledge and use it in a responsible manner.  (Now if that doesn’t sound like government censorship, I don’t what does!)  However, I think we can all agree that some people just aren’t smart enough to handle some things.  Fireworks just so happens to be one of them.  Give someone just enough knowledge to be dangerous and look what happens.

Perhaps this would be a good time to wish everyone a safe and sane holiday here in America.  I’d give you a warning that you should be safe on the 4th of July but you’d just file it under worthless advice so I’ll skip it today.

And you thought I was a downer…look at this picture!

Uh Oh, Kevin is Back into his Blog….

Oops, did I forget to blog for the past six weeks?

I must apologize for being one of those terrible bloggers that builds up a massive audience of three readers and then let’s them wonder if I will every write again.

I have a million excuses of why I did write anything on my blog.  Was it Writer’s Block?  Perhaps my life was just so busy I didn’t have time?  Or maybe I just ran out of good things to write about?

To be honest, it was a little bit of all the above items.  I usually like to make my blog entries something that just makes my three devoted readers just rave to their 30 cats about what an awesome writer I am.  Yet, I have let these folks down by not writing and thus making them think that maybe I’m not quite the amazing writer they imagine I am.

I was overwhelmed with work, the ending of the school year for my kids, and blah, blah, blah.  Life just got busier and I put my blog on the back burner.

Putting your blog on the backburner is a frightening easy thing to do.  You tell yourself that you’ll write tomorrow…or on the weekend….or next week.  And see what happens?  Six weeks later and I’m trying to reconnect with my readers yet again.

And a lot of stuff has happened in six weeks.  We had a flood at our family’s cabin, deadlines for projects came and went, we have awesome completed our front porch rebuild, we made our first summer vacation trip to Silverwood Amusement Park (and Water Park in Idaho), and we set up the pool for the summer.

I know, I know.  Pretty darn exciting stuff, huh?

My new commitment for my blog is to actually write more in July and in a summer craze of creativity I shall honor my commitment to you (my dear readers!)

Again, thanks for reading and I hope to see you commenting on how wonderful it is to have me back!

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