One Man’s Junk


By Jennifer Hallmark

You’ve heard the expression, “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure? Never has that been more true than today. Numerous reality and television programs have sprung up promoting these modern-day “treasure hunts.”

Programs like Antiques Roadshow have been around in the U.S. since 1997. Antique and sometimes junk enthusiasts bring in their treasure to be appraised. Some find their inherited item worth thousands while others discover there is only sentimental value to be found.

There are several reality shows along the lines of Storage Wars. When rent is not paid on a storage locker for three months in California, the contents can be sold by an auctioneer as a single lot of items in the form of a cash-only auction. Storage Wars follows several buyers as they purchase storage units and dig through the household items and clothes, hoping to find a safe full of money or antiques worth a mint.

My last example is American Pickers. The show follows antique and collectible pickers Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz as they travel primarily around the United States, buying (“picking”) various items either for resale, for clients, or occasionally their own personal collections.**

Once again, we follow people on their treasure hunt from the comfort of our living room. No stress and strain on our part, though we don’t get the treasure either.

Join in the fun! Name some television programs you watch that showcase treasure hunting in some form or fashion. Or maybe a fun thrift store or dig store you like to hunt through for your own treasure. Leave a comment and maybe we’ll join you in your treasure hunt…


Privy Treasure Hunters

Prompt CONTESTWhen I was younger, a lot younger, (so young that my memories are very faded) my mother took me, along with a Girl Scout Troop, hiking. I remember the excitement of finding arrow heads in the dirt. As vague as my memories are, I seem to recall how numerous they were. Years later, Grandma took me to a museum in Kansas City where a few live buffalo roamed among the teepees. I was absolutely fascinated with the artifacts on display.

I used to dig in the dirt with friends from the neighborhood. You might say that’s pretty typical for children, but we dug holes. Big holes. Our goal was to dig ourselves to China. But I couldn’t help thinking that somewhere along the way I’d come across some cool ancient artifact. Even at that young age, I knew the thrill of the hunt, even if it was only a small rock.

I guess my fascination with the past was pretty evident early on in my life. I think that is one thing that draws me to writing historical set romances. I love the research and I’d jump at the chance for hands on exploration. I should have been an archaeologist, but I’ll settle for writing.

As much as I love the idea of digging through the dirt to discover artifacts, I don’t find this particular past-time of interest.

IMG_4628Privy Diggers! Or uh, outhouse diggers. There are all kinds of people who travel the United States looking for old outhouse landmarks. I know, right? You’re probably curling your nose at this whole thing. I mean, seriously, what in the world would posses any one to dig around outhouses?

Well, mainly old bottles. Seems there weren’t many trash collectors back in the day so folks just up and tossed their garbage down the privy hole. According to this digger, Outhouse Diggers, outhouse digging could tell a lot about the people using the outhouse, from their health to their financial status. He also mentions that it’s a great chronological exploration. Some of the outhouses he’s dug up had a span of over fifty years. Bottles aren’t the only thing found on an outhouse dig, things like pistols, clay pipes, human remains. Yes, I said human remains. Hundreds of years old.

Now, things like the flintlock pistol, swords and whatnot are almost enough to make me want to join in on a dig, but bones… not so much.

You really should take the time to read the article. Oh, and here is this one  that actually shows images of things found. Check out the little clay pipes (scroll down the page). Really cool!

I’ve come across a lot of eccentric hobbyists, but this one so far takes the cake.

What think you? Would you go digging around for outhouse holes?



Mamaw Avon’s Pink Stuff

photo by Anna

Southerners love their “get-togethers,” especially if the holidays and food are involved. My husband Danny’s family is no exception. Though his mother, Mamaw Avon, now lives in her heavenly residence, her bright smile and recipes live on. Thanksgiving meant turkey, Christmas meant ham, and for both holidays, she made cherry fluff, or as we called it, pink stuff.

On Thanksgiving Day, we’d wake early to the smell of the turkey which had baked all night. “Dressing,” which is a southern-type of cornbread stuffing, was tasted and re-tasted to get the spices just right. Vegetables were cooked and the house filled quickly with family and friends bearing casseroles and cake plates brimming with delectable dishes. The pink stuff was mixed together and chilled before the start of our late afternoon celebration.

The large crowd would be quieted before we’d give thanks to God for His abundant goodness, then to the feasting. Most of us ate our pink stuff with the meal, but a few would save a bowlful for desert later. The left-overs brought us all together for several days thereafter and the fun would begin all over again.

Do your holidays have enjoyable food traditions or memories?


Pink Stuff

1 can cherry pie filling

1 small can crushed pineapple, drained

12 oz. Cool Whip

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 cup miniature marshmallows

½ cup pecans, finely chopped


Mix all ingredients in large bowl; mix well. Pour in decorative bowl and refrigerate for one hour.


Today’s writing prompt: Sandra emptied the pecans she’d chopped into the faded hand-painted bowl as a tear slipped down her cheek. Her mother’s bowl…

Mom’s Twice Published Recipe-Chinese Pepper Steak

 An oft requested recipe in our family is Mom’s pepper steak. When we lived in Missouri, our neighbor invited us to eat one evening and served pepper steak. Mom copied the recipe and we’ve enjoyed it since then.

Years later, she sent the recipe to Southern Living magazine and they published it. I passed it on to a local magazine who also printed it in the recipe section of their magazine. 

What is the steak in pepper steak? Round steak. A round steak is a steak from the round primal cut of beef. Specifically, a round steak is the eye of round, bottom round, and top round still connected, with or without the “round” bone (femur), and may include the knuckle (sirloin tip), depending on how the round is separated from the loin.

 This is a lean cut and it is moderately tough. Lack of fat and marbling makes round dry out when cooked with dry-heat cooking methods like roasting or grilling. Round steak is commonly prepared with slow moist-heat methods including braising, to tenderize the meat and maintain moisture. The cut is often sliced thin, then dried or smoked at low temperature to make jerky.

Mom’s recipe calls for the steak to be cut in thin, short strips to keep it from becoming dry and tough.  I believe I’ll run to the market afterwhile and gather up the ingredients to make my family pepper steak and rice.


Chinese Pepper Steak

Yield: 4 servings

1 (1 ½ pound) round steak, cut into thin strips

2 tablespoons oil

Salt to taste

1 green pepper, cut into strips

1 onion, diced

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon cooking sherry

¼ or less teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

2 tablespoons cornstarch

3 tablespoons water

1 tomato, diced

Hot cooked rice


Quickly brown meat in hot oil; add salt, green pepper, onion, soy sauce, cooking sherry, garlic powder, and ginger. Cover and cook over low heat for ten minutes.

Combine cornstarch and water; stir until cornstarch is dissolved. Add this to meat mixture; cook, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened.

Add tomato; cover and simmer about ten minutes. Additional water may be added, if needed. Serve over rice.  Below is a different take on pepper steak…

Today’s writing prompt:  Ted unwrapped the brown paper parcel in front of him, wondering what his mother had purchased at the meat market. Round steak. Great. And with Linda…




Common Household- Sewing

After reading through my co-bloggers posts, I’ve had a certain nostalgia come over me. I grew up in a home where both my parents worked, mom rushed from work to pick us up from daycare, raced to the grocery, then home to make dinner.

I don’t recall helping make meals, cookies or pies. The rolling pin saw the light of day during the holidays, which happened to be the only times I recall watching my mom cook. So things like the turkey baster and candy thermometers were passing curiosities.

Microwaves and VCRs were things that came to be during my childhood. The only thing I noticed was my parents’ excitement. And Top Gun on surround sound vibrating the walls. 😉 I believe that movie propelled my dad into purchasing the VCR. 

Our first computer was a Texas Instrument. I remember standing with my dad in the magazine section as he perused the game codes. We’d then go home and spend hours upon hours inputting data, hoping we didn’t make a mistake.

But the things I remember the most, things that may or may not be consider ‘common household’ items were things that were very common in our household.

One of my first memories is of my dad stepping on one of my mom’s dropped pins. These tiny, shiny sharp objects have been around for thousands of years in various forms.

A little trivia, according to Wikipedia (Yeah, I know how reliable it is but still, it’s fun) the term ‘pin money’ used back in the Middle Ages came from the fact that pins were expensive to purchase. A husband would give his wife money to by one. How thoughtful. 🙂

Mom lost a few pins throughout my childhood, and of course, Dad usually found them.

Scissors, an item that dates back to Mesopotamia, were another common item. One piece of advice I can give to all husbands if they wish to keep the peace in their households; DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT use your wife’s good scissors as tin snips or wire cutters.

Some of my fondest memories are of my mother staying up the night before Christmas finishing all the projects she was working on for us.

I’m sure she thinks I hated having homemade clothes when the rest of the kids had designer, and I’m sure there was a time that I did, but I will never forget the time and love spent over the cutting table, at the sewing machine, or sitting in her chair crocheting a scarf or knitting a sweater.

Writing prompt:

Flames blazed in the fireplace. The rocker creaked a staccato. Tonya’s needles tapped . . .

Common Household Items – Modern and Future

Confession time – I have a favorite appliance in my kitchen. I know you shouldn’t show favoritism, but it’s my Tassimo single-cup coffeemaker. I know it’s an extravagance, but I love coffee and I always hated throwing coffee away when I made too much. So now I make a single cup and I can even make lattes and specialty coffees if I have them on hand. Other than that, my kitchen is ordinary. We are not really high tech in other areas of the house either. If it works, why replace it? 

I do have dreams. When I began researching this article, those dreams expanded. Yes, I would like this television set and that beautiful modern lighting. If you watch HGTV, you see so many new and innovative additions to kitchens and bathrooms it’s difficult to keep up. But writers must stay up with the new gadgets if our writing is going to be modern for the next couple of years. 

For your convenience, I have inserted links in this article. Just click on the item to see the original article and/or photo.

Appliances & Gadgets – Among my favorites, advanced lighting, a self-cleaning, restocking refrigerator, a “green” glass, robot security and what I like to call the “super” bed. Just imagine a bed that does everything for you. But there are many more gadgets out there, designed to make our lives easier. However, some of them are costly and are not energy efficient right now, like the Kohler Numi toilet.
We already have music that follows us everywhere, electronic books, ipods, ipads, iphones, and laptops. These are constantly evolving to keep up with the ever-changing technology. Even our automobiles are evolving into highly technical machines with touchscreens that allow us to route our journey, raise and lower the heat and sound and even talk on the telephone. 
& Televisions – Our present-day television boasts high-density picture quality that is at times unsettling, if the screen is a large one. You almost feel you’re there. Anyone remember the old color TV’s? Those first ones to hit the market? We’ve come a long way. The screens of the future look a little different. There are holographic TVs in the works and the solid glass screens are already out there. You think you’re looking at a mirror or a glass panel until you touch the remote and turn it on. Cool.
These new gadgets will be powered by solar, wind, biodiesel and nuclear energy, according to several articles I found, especially one from National Geographic. But that’s another subject for another day.
There is a wealth of information out there to help you populate your futuristic novel with cool gadgets and appliances. If you have deep pockets, you can even invest in a few to add that touch of realism to your story. If your work in progress is set in the present, just be aware that your cutting-edge technology will be out of date by the time your book is published. 
Thank you for reading our posts this month on Common Household Items. I hope we have helped fuel your imaginations. Please join our blog or follow our facebook page to keep up with future posts on interesting writer-inspiring subjects. And take a few minutes to finish one of our story prompts. Enter the monthly contest to win a $10 Amazon gift card and be featured in our last post of the month. Hey, it’s free advertising. 
This week’s prompt: Lucy was awakened by a trilling alarm. Bimbo, her security robot, had detected something. She pushed a button in the headboard to activate the security channel on the TV. Her heart nearly stopped as the screen revealed the intruder…

The Radarange

Need to boil water? Melt butter, chocolate, or marshmallows? How about warm a snack? My second favorite kitchen appliance can do this and more, the microwave.
A microwave oven, often colloquially shortened to microwave, is a kitchen appliance that heats food by dielectric heating accomplished with radiation used to heat polarized molecules in food. Microwave ovens heat foods quickly and efficiently because excitation is fairly uniform in the outer 25–38 mm of a dense (high water content) food item; food is more evenly heated throughout (except in thick, dense objects) than generally occurs in other cooking techniques.
Dr. Percy Spencer invented the first microwave oven after World War II from radar technology developed during the war. Named the “Radarange”, it was first sold in 1947. Raytheon later licensed its patents for a home-use microwave oven that was first introduced by Tappan in 1955, but these units were still too large and expensive for general home use. The countertop microwave oven was first introduced in 1967 by the Amana Corporation, which had been acquired in 1965 by Raytheon.
From what I’ve read, how a microwave actually works is difficult to explain and scientific. My untrained mind helped me to decide instead to give you several facts I found interesting about the microwave…
(1)    The heating effects of high power microwave beams were discovered by accident when Dr. Percy Spencer’s candy bar [a Mr. Goodbar] he had in his pocket melted.
(2)   The first commercially available microwave oven was almost 6 feet high and weighed 750 pounds. In 1947, it cost $5000, [$52,042 in today’s dollars.]
(3)   Current estimates hold that over 90% of American households own a microwave oven.
(4)   Microwave ovens heat food without getting hot themselves.
(5)   Closed containers, such as eggs, can explode when heated in a microwave oven due to the increased pressure from steam.
My own microwave is used to warm up all sorts of food, cook frozen meals, and melt certain foods. I also might heat a cup of water for hot tea or coffee. My crock pot for slow cooking and my microwave for those busy days keep this writer writing…
This week’s writing prompt: Belinda’s hand trembled as she set the chipped mug of water into the microwave. The word on the faded cup mocked her. Peace. A concept long forgotten when…