September 27, 2016

My Next Book

My second novel, working title: Lesser Evils, is happening! I've got a lot of work done on the book and I want to share it with you as I'm writing.

The first chapter is available for download below and future updates will be available on my shiny new writing blog, N.L. Writes. I'll continue to release chapters as they're edited and listen to any of your feedback. I'll also post other writing updates, free e-book days and self-publishing notes on the blog.

Here is a synopsis of Lesser Evils:
"On the run from her past, Abby is in deep trouble when she’s saved from the desert by a stranger. But the mysterious rancher has secrets of his own, which may endanger Abby in more ways than one. 
Dalton is on a dark mission when he falls upon Abby, half-dead and handcuffed in the Texas desert. He helps her because she needs it, but his motives might not truly be as pure as he claims."
Intrigue, adventure, romance! 

Get the first chapter here and don't forget to tell me what you think. Anything that doesn't work? Annoying word over-usage? Use the comments section below and tell it to me!

I hope you'll join me on this adventure!

September 25, 2016

How to Cold Brew Choffy

Choffy is 100% cacao. Brewed like coffee, it's a caffeine-alternative with a light chocolatey taste.

"Choffy naturally contains a gentle yet long lasting stimulant called Theobromine. This healthy stimulant provides you with an energy lift by dilating the cardiovascular system, making the heart’s job easier and delivers energy without a crash or the other negative effects of caffeine."

I wouldn't choose Choffy over coffee to brew hot (if I wasn't pregnant and couldn't have caffeine), but cold brewed Choffy hits the spot on a hot summer afternoon when I want a little something sweet and chocolatey. 

It's way better brewed cold than hot, and since it's impossible to brew it in the Keurig, cold-brewed Choffy is the way to go. 

Cold Brew Choffy
  • 1/2 cup Choffy grounds
  • Roughly 24 ounces of cold water

1. Dump everything together in a French press. 
2. Stir the bejesus out of it.

It'll look like there's some sitting on the top dry, so really get in there as best you can. You won't be able to get it all mixed in. But you can depress the plunger on the French press a tiny bit, just to make sure all the grounds are submerged.

this is fine 
3. Let it sit for 20 hours or so in a cool, dark place. 

Drink it straight or with a couple ice cubes for a tasty afternoon pick-me-up. 

September 21, 2016

I Can Do Anything (And You Can Too): Adventuring With a Toddler

If you've ever thought you can't do something or go somewhere because you have a kiddo, I have news for you: You can. And you should.

Traveling with a toddler isn't easy. Sometimes it's not fun.

But more often, it is. And when it's good, it's magical. All it takes is a little pre-planning and preparation, some adjusting of expectations and you can go anywhere and do anything, toting that kiddo right along.

Dora Babs the Explorer and Mom in Moab, Utah
We camped for 5 days in the desert outside of Moab, Utah, next to the climbing rock face called Sunshine Wall. Our first outdoor climbing experience, we were led by our dear friend Nay, and accompanied by his friend Rachel.

giving my mother a heart attack, one adventure at a time
(What did we do with the dogs while we were away? Got a homeless person to stay at our house and care for them, of course. That's it's own post: How to Find a Free Dog Sitter, coming soon.)

Babs packing list for the desert:
Sun hat
Closed-toe shoes
3 pair shorts
4 T-shirts
2 long-sleeves
2 pants
1 sweatpants
5 undies
Potty chair

Babs was on week 2 of potty training, so we toted her potty chair on our day trips. She def peed in a public parking lot a time or three. Who cares. If people had kids they'll probably understand. If not, Whatever.

It was hotter than... something really hot, and our campsite had zero shade after 8 a.m., so naps were tough, considering our tent bakes like an oven when the sun hits it. Naps were taken in the air conditioned truck driving to/from day-climbing destinations.

Once, she napped in the hammock with me as my compatriots climbed in the La Sal mountains. (A 20 degree difference from our campsite to climbing site in the mountains meant for a warm, snuggly swing in the hammock with my sleeping girl. A better time was never had.)

What Toys to Bring Traveling?

Keep it simple. Go for the biggest bang for your buck. A little rubber ducky gets old in ten minutes, but two barbie dolls can provide hours of entertainment. We brought a small tote of toys because we had the space, but mostly, she played with a bucket, two cups, a spoon and an empty spice container. (Lots of playing in the sand.)

Pro tip: Make a game out of burying 'treasure' in the sand for her to dig up. It doesn't matter what the treasure is.

Books for reading before sleep were essential. Bring as much as you can to keep their routines the same as at home. But the deviation from routine isn't going to make a child go berserk, either. Prep the kiddo by telling them, "We're going camping (or x, y or z), so you're not going to have "favorite toy x" for a few days. But it'll be home waiting for you when we get back."

If you're unsure about the adventure with the kid, try not to let it show. They're little sponges, they soak up voice inflection and facial cues. Be excited about it: "We're going CAMPING! Oh my gosh this is so amazing! I can't wait! Are you excited Babs? It's going to be so much FUN!"

Odds are your can-do, flexible attitude will be infectious.

Toddler Foods While Traveling

Frozen sausage (the more natural the better: hold the nitrates, please.)
Pumpkin pie (make one beforehand and pack it in Tupperware.)
String Cheese
Lunch meat
Canned Vegetables (carrots, green beans, corn, whatever greens your kid will eat)
Pouches (having a few on hand is a good idea when you're in the middle of nowhere)
Cereal (or other snacks such as granola and raisins)

Oh, and don't forget the marshmallows!

The Benefits of Community

A rock climbing trip would not have been possible with only 2 people and a kid, since one person is climbing and the other is belaying and there's no one around to make sure Babs doesn't fall onto a cactus.

Having 1-2 more people along was essential for this trip, and indeed would make any trip with a kid easier, provided the people are semi-helpful.

Babs and Rachel looking at the cows that were just...hanging out...everywhere
Our 1-2 people were amazingly helpful in keeping Babs entertained, happy and cactus-free for these 5 days. Traveling with friends, family, or another group who has children is a huge benefit and I highly recommend it.

Nay helping Babs 'Climb rock like Mommy'
Babs had so much fun waking up (at the ass crack of dawn: "Sun's awake!") to a new adventure every day. We took her on short hikes, threw her in the pack and hiked in to climbing spots, checked out Arches National Park, and basically just toted her wherever we wanted to go.

Mind, we hadn't showered for 3-4 days at this point
I always had a backpack pre-loaded with whatever she may require: sunscreen, chapstick, water, snacks (cheerios, raisins, pouches), some toys, some books, extra clothes. I usually had a small cooler packed with cold foods, too. But as long as she had someone to engage with, look at the new surroundings, and make up stories, she was a happy camper.

Hell, I even took her into a hostel shower. That sounds a tiny bit irresponsible, but it was actually totally cool. We escaped the 95 degree heat at our campsite, wind that blew sand into our eyes (and everywhere else) and incessant black flies, for a day trip into Moab, where we checked out a cool rock shop, had dinner and yes, stopped off for a quick $3 shower at a hostel.

"Babs, put your hands on your head and don't touch anything!" She did really well, and it was incredibly refreshing.

The view from the top of a climb. Photo courtesy of Nay, as I was too busy not dying to take any pics at this point

Mr. Go rappelling, which is even more fun than it looks
I'm so thankful we didn't miss out on this amazing trip because we were too scared to try traveling with our ever-changing, unreasonable Terrible 2-year-old. The scenery was breathtaking, falling asleep under the desert sky, bright with stars was an incomparable experience.

And now that we've done it, I realize how easy it is (not "easy easy" but do-able and enjoyable).

Any adventure truly is possible, kid and all.

September 12, 2016

Save Money and Help the Environment, Vol. 2: Around the House

Mrs. Tell is growing her very own Money Mustache.

Mr. Go is working hard toward an early retirement and a Happy Life in general with the guidance of Mr. Money Mustache, and part of that is breaking free of the addictive cycle of consumerism. (Do I sound like a hippie yet? Just wait.)

To be less dependent on material goods, I've taken it upon myself to save here and there by implementing some DIY projects. These ideas actually came to me when brainstorming how to create less garbage, and I realized they have the added bonus of keeping money in our pockets (or bank accounts, as it were).

1. Reusable K-Cup

My soul died a little every time I threw that little plastic cup in the garbage, and so I rejoiced to use this little guy. Less waste even than traditional drip coffee makers that use disposable filters. Plus, the Keurig uses less energy by heating a smaller amount of water at a time. Every penny counts, people. Every. Penny.

2. Reusable Feminine Sanitary Products

Listen, this freaked me out at first too. But this is how ladies did it for thousands of years until Kotex realized they could make money off us. Here's a good resource for reusable pad tutorials. For those days I can get away with it, a batting or flannel-lined pad is the way to go. When my current tampon stash runs dry, the tampon-alternative Moon Cup is on my Amazon Wish List.

3. Reusable Water Bottle

I've been carrying around a Klean Kanteen for five or six years. I lost one in Kansas City so I'm actually on my second one. It's a 20 oz piece of crap that I've dropped so many times it leaks if it lays horizontal, but it's an insulator so my water stays the perfectly chill drinking temperature.

Plus, I never have to waste my money buying water like a schmuck or heaven forbid throw away a plastic bottle like an even bigger schmuck.

4. Buy Products with Less Packaging

Those packages of raisins that come pre-packed in tiny little boxes make me irrationally angry. If I ever happen to see someone putting one of those in their cart at the grocery store I'll probably...well I'll probably just judge them really hard in my head and give them the stink-eye, but only if they're not looking at me.

Instead, buy a bulk pack (or even better, get them bulk at Whole Foods and then use the plastic bag to pick up dog poop) and divvy them out in reusable snack bags (see #8) in your kids' lunches.

This one is more of a Help the Environment tip, but a lot of times bulk packs are less expensive. Just make sure you look at the per ounce price on the label, not the total price, or get out your phone and do a calculation.

5. Stop Your Junk Mail

Get yourself on the National Do Not Mail List and end those annoying credit card offers and L.L. Bean catalogs.

6. Reusable Grocery Bags

Hello, my name is Captain Obvious, nice to meet you. But even I, preaching these things to you, didn't start using reusable grocery bags until this very year. For shame, Mrs. Tell, for shame.

While many grocery stores have those bins you can bring your plastic bag full of plastic bags back to for recycling, I have a suspicious nature and don't trust that they actually recycle them. Best to avoid the plastic altogether.

7. Reusable Snack Bags

I saw a tutorial for these when I was young and carefree and thought 'why would anyone do this?' And then I had Babs, and having hidden stashes of raisins, cereal, bread and other carbs in my purse, car and jacket pockets at all times became a necessity. I found myself throwing away plastic bags left and right. And then I realized...ohhhhh, that's why people make their own snack bags.

Anyway, here's a tutorial for one.

8. Second Hand Clothing

I hesitate to even put this on here, because chances are you don't need more clothes at all. But if you find yourself in need of a rad original costume, be it Halloween or comic-con, or something fly for that special meeting, check your local Goodwill, ARC or independent thrift store, or Craigslist for garage sales.

Odds are you won't get a plastic hangar to throw away, and it should be a fraction of the cost of new, if you do it right. And before you go making a face, you can absolutely find trendy stylish clothes second hand. Bonus for it being unique and maybe even vintage.

9. Reusable Diapers

I drug my feet on this one so long that we only used our re-usable diapers for a few months before Babs was potty trained. But we still saved a pile of money, and avoided sending hundreds of non-biodegradable Pampers to a landfill. It's incredible how much room diapers take up in the garbage. And how heavy they get.

The vast array of options for reusable diapers is astounding, but I'll make it simple for you. Order 5 Alva Baby shells and 5 inserts. Get 2 of the inserts with thicker layers. Then purchase more if needed. They're actually cheaper to purchase on their website than on Amazon. (More on reusable diapers in an upcoming Potty Training post.)

10. DIY Baby Wipes

With soap and witch hazel, these are actually antibacterial, whereas Pampers wipes are not; they just wipe off the poop, they don't sanitize.

Get the tutorial here. 

I did not use Grapeseed Oil or Olive oil, but everything else was the same.

Tip: Use the Viva paper towels without the indent-marks. The smooth texture is better for baby butt. Don't get the kind that has the "Choose a Size" option. You want the full sheet size.

A large Folgers tub is great for storing! Or a gallon size Ziploc bag. Make up a big batch; it lasts a long time. It won't go bad for a year or so. Just tip the jug up and down a few times (don't shake it or it'll get bubbly) to distribute the oil before you pour it over your paper towels.

Things You Think You Need But Actually Don't

This is a whole separate list of things you can replace/reuse with other things, or just stop buying altogether.

1. Diaper Disposal Bags

Look, everybody shits. Babies do it like four times a day. If you're worried about people smelling it in your garbage, throw it in the outside bin.

2. Trendy Storage Bins from Target

Use a shoebox. Or an empty mason jar, or the box your Amazon package came in. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

This list could go on ad infinitum, but instead I advise that when you're thinking about a purchase, ask yourself, "Do I need it?" Odds are you don't, but if you still think you do, ask yourself what you could use instead.

Captain Planet would be so proud.

September 8, 2016

How to Make the Highest Impact with the Least Effort

Do you ever feel like you're spinning your wheels? Like you have so many plates to juggle that when you add one more they all come crashing down?

In Essentialism by Greg McKeown, he outlines tenets of the lifestyle he calls 'Essentialism'. Much of it is geared toward the business world, but 95% of it also applied to me as a stay-at-home-mom.

It really was an engaging read, but if you don't have the time to sit down and read a book, I'll Cliff Notes it for you in a hopefully easily-digestible way.


If you feel like you have a million different projects going at once, and are being pulled in a thousand different directions, stop and consider what is really important. List your priorities, and choose one or two big items/ideas to pursue.
this image from Essentialism illustrates the concept pretty effectively

Indecision is often as bad as saying yes to everything. If you do not choose your own direction and set boundaries for yourself by design, others will do it for you. Set priorities and know your core purpose, or you may find yourself saddled with nonessential tasks/clutter/responsibilities.

SAHM: Boil everything down to keeping the child alive. What is best for Babs? Don't try to get fancy with dinners, if the floor doesn't get vacuumed this week no one will die. Just have fun and connect with your daughter.


Once you define a concrete Essential Intent, it allows you to Eliminate the Nonessential. For me part of that was my office job.

Anything that doesn't fit in with your purpose, say no to, or get rid of. Lighten your load so you can get to your goal faster and easier.

This doesn't only mean drains on your time, but physical things as well. For me, a big part was my closet packed full of clothes that just weighed me down. Having physical clutter around you is distracting. Put things away or better yet, just get rid of them.


When faced with a decision - an invitation for a new project or even an invitation to a social outing - don't feel obligated to say yes immediately. Your main obligation is to yourself, not anyone else. Reserve the right to say, "Let me think about it and I'll get back to you."

This gives you time to weigh the cost/benefit of an extra box on your list vs. not doing the thing and having more time either to yourself, or to do other possibly more essential things.

The fear of missing out can factor in here, but ask yourself this, "If I didn't do this thing, would it really impact my level of long-term happiness?" The answer is probably no.


As a SAHM this is extra important. McKeown writes it more as an escape from work, i.e. putting your phone away and not checking email, since the minute you answer an email on a Saturday, it will be expected of you in the future. Don't encroach on your personal time.

Disconnecting from technology is an excellent idea that I myself am terrible at putting into practice. But when I do, it feels amazing. Leave your phone in a different room. Once the opportunity for constant fleeting entertainment is removed, you find yourself present in the moment, noticing your surroundings and creating your own entertainment, which will probably consist of your spouse or children. Win.

For the SAHM: Make Time for Yourself. When you are able to temporarily leave behind all your responsibilities, you can find the time and space to explore different opportunities, or examine your current responsibilities for possible cutbacks.

For me, it's taking a break from having my brain full of my daughter's needs to examine my own, or to visualize and fully plan the next day/activity so that everything goes smoothly.

Many people (hi! me!) get caught in the trap of work, work, work. Work harder, work more to do better. But taking a break to escape, breathe, relax and play rejuvenates you so you're not just throwing your energy around like a wrecking ball, but can focus it and ultimately do more while working less.

This ties in nicely with our next point:


In the rat race we often rush from one thing to the next, sacrificing sleep and fun and play in effort to prepare for the next big thing or to get ahead.

But if we take a step back and look at the big picture, you must realize you are at the center of it. It doesn't work without you.

So take care of yourself. Protect the asset: you.

Sleep is one of the most crucial factors in being our best selves, both in efficient work and fulfilling personal life. If you're running at 50%, everything you do will suffer. Not to mention you'll probably not have fun doing it.

It's tempting once the baby goes to bed to read for an hour, or watch T.V. or clean, or any number of things it seems there's no time to do with kids running around. But do yourself a favor and make yourself go to bed at a decent time. Future-You will thank you.


"No" is a complete sentence. -Annie Lamott

It took me a long time to learn how to Say No Gracefully. It's still difficult for me to decline anything- what if I disappoint someone? What if I'm missing out? But when you start learning how to say No to opportunities (some of which might even be great opportunities, but might not fit with your Essential Intent), you make room for the truly essential, and that's way more rewarding.

Once I've taken on a project and it starts to drain more time than it's worth, it's hard to let go. You've already sunk this much time into it, it feels like giving up if you scrap it. But admitting you made a mistake is only admitting that you are now wiser than you once were, and there's no shame in that.

Along the same vein, we sometimes find it difficult to abandon a project or habit simply because it is what we have always done. This Status Quo Bias is dangerous and can be cured by applying some Zero-Based Budgeting.

Take a good hard look at the way you do things, and all the habits and commitments in your life, and justify them to yourself. If 'because I've always done it that way' is the only reason you can come up with, perhaps there's a better way of doing it. Or perhaps it's better to eliminate it altogether.


Use deliberate subtraction to edit your life. This kind of subtraction actually adds value by increasing your focus on the things that truly matter.

Having a clear overarching intent allows you to check yourself and compare activities and behaviors to real intent. Continually correct course, checking in and making minor edits. Don't wait until it becomes overwhelming and emotions force you to cut something you may regret.

On the other side of the spectrum: Be Selective in your Edits. The best surgeon isn't the one who makes the most incisions. Instead of going all-in and slashing away at your life, wait. Observe. Use restraint. Gather intel, see how things develop, then make an informed decision on whether it should stay or go.


To operate at the highest level of contribution requires deliberately tuning in to what's important in the here and now.

Multitasking is great sometimes, but in my life more often than not, it does more harm than good. I'm only using a fraction of my brain for each task, and each tasks suffers for it.

I imagine it like this: You have a sippy cup in one hand and a basket of laundry in the other. You're on your way to the washing machine when you notice a toy on the ground that needs to be picked up. But you're all out of hands. You need to put something down first. You need to finish one task before moving on to the next. (This is an actual thing that happens to me fairly regularly.)

Even if it means running all over the house five times, I actually find I get more done by focusing on one thing at a time than trying to multitask.


Boil everything down to the one or two really important objectives/tasks/people in your life.

Take care of yourself. None of it works without you.

September 5, 2016

Mrs. Tell Is a TV Star

I mean, kind of.

Well, not really.

It's hard to think of myself as an Expert, because I know the inner workings of my own mind and WTF flashes across my brain on the daily. But I actually do know a lot more on a certain subject than many others, and have been solicited to impart that knowledge in several different avenues.

First, as a freelance writer for Sew News, a nationally-distributed how-to magazine. And secondly, taping a project-based how-to video and doing Live Q&A for National Sewing Circle, a web-based sewing resource.

Here's my YouTube debut:

And the latest installment:

What excellent frames to freeze on. Thanks YouTube.

I just so happened to have the connections to acquire these freelance opportunities from when I worked full time. Maybe this work will build up my 'brand' as Mr. Go likes to call it, and lead to more opportunities, or maybe it'll just amount to a few extra bucks and a creative fix. Either way, it's fun. Plus I like the sound of my own voice (said no one ever).

So here I am, being touted as an Expert in my field, which makes part of me wildly uncomfortable, but I have to come to terms with the fact that yes, I actually am an expert at something. Especially considering my last performance, where I screwed up my time zones and only realized we were going Live with 20 minutes prep-time instead of 1 hour and 20 minutes, as I had so carefully 'planned.' And it went great, because I had the knowledge to back me up (and no extra time to psych myself out).

Tim Ferris says to be an 'Expert' you just have to know more on your subject than 80% of the people out there. Tim has all sorts of hacks and tricks for building yourself up as an 'Expert', but I just worked in my field for a while and Expertise just sorta happened. I came across some good opportunities to build up impressive-sounding experiences, such as being a guest on Sew it All TV on PBS.

It wasn't my goal to become sewing teacher/celebrity (or sew-lebrity, as they say in the biz. ha. ha.) so I've been pretty chill about it, but Mr. Go, in stellar Mr. Go fashion, urges me to run with it.

Anyway my point here is: anyone can be an expert. It's not some lofty goal. Not to undermine my success or anything, but if I can be an Expert, as I'm running around flailing in this zoo that is my life, you can do it too. Read some books. Work a while in your industry; pay attention; use every mistake as a lesson and soak up the knowledge, sponge-like. Expertise will probably sneak up on you.