Summer issue Sneak Peek


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Good Morning!

Ahhh … the sun! The sun is shining for the first time in what seems like a very long time. Todd said yesterday he thought he might have seen some shades of green in the pasture! Our dogs, Ezra and Clover are happy to be outside this morning (they are fair weather dogs!)

I wanted to share a sneak peek of a WONDERFUL house that will appear in our upcoming summer issue – the home of Larry and Carolyn Yoss.  The couple have a Bed & Breakfast in Brandon, Florida, “Behind the Fence.”  Their friend Linda Kuzak (whose gardens were featured in a past issue) did the photography and captured some wonderful photos that really speak of the essence of the house and collections. Our writer, Linda Harbrecht tells a beautiful story of the couple and their journey to where they have settled in their location, collections and life. I promise, this is one you won’t want to miss!  And if you find yourself vacationing in the area, it’s certainly somewhere you’d love to stay! The  Innkeepers are the best!


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Happy Birthday Ralph Stanley!

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What a wonderful thing – to celebrate the birth of Dr. Ralph Stanley today who is 89! Ralph Stanley is my all time favorite musician and such an icon in Old-Time Mountain Music and Bluegrass. He and his brother Carter began performing as the Stanley Brothers in the early 1940’s. Sadly, Carter passed away in 1966.

From Big Spraddle, VA, Ralph is still touring today.  I last saw Ralph in concert last year in Rocky Mount, VA just before Christmas. He had suffered a fall in October and this was his first time back on the stage and was certainly appearing weary. It broke my heart. But the legend is doing better and I look forward to seeing him again in 2016! In the meantime, I listen to him nearly everyday.

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My all time favorite tune performed by Ralph and Carter is “Rank Stranger.” So in honor of his birthday today – I’m listening Ralph! Wishing you many more !



For the love of books …

In honor of the sad passing of Harper Lee today (author of “To Kill a Mockingbird”) I reflect on how important books have always been in my life. Lee won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 for her wonderful book – quite a feat for a first time author. I felt as if Atticus Finch, Scout and Boo Radley lived on my street. That is what books do for us … take us to another place in time, another time period, among daring adventures and unlikely characters.

I was given the gift of reading from my mom. I think, like so many of us, I grew up on the “Little House on the Prairie” series with my mom reading a few pages to me each night and then me reading a few pages to her. We read the whole series all the way through Half Pint growing up. Next for me came the whole wonderful series of, “The Wizard of Oz.” A lot of folks don’t realize there was an entire series – and not just the original book made into a movie. Yes, as an adult you would still enjoy the rest of the books in the series! The illustrations are amazing.

Sadly, there was a time in my life I thought I was too busy to read. Actually, I felt “guilty” reading – thinking I needed to be working. Reading felt like I was wasting time. Fortunately I realized how false that was and I now read every single day, even if only for a few minutes. It is a gift I give myself.  I always read before going to bed, and often read in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep.

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That brings me to a true controversy – Kindle or not to Kindle! ha! I admit, like probably most of you, I swore off modern technology and knew the only way to read was to hold the book in my hands and smell the paper. There is something soothing and methodical in turning the pages. But my brother came to live with us several years ago and he read on a kindle. One holiday weekend while Todd was at a horse sale, I borrowed Jay’s kindle and read three books in three days. I was hooked! Because for me, it is so much easier to hold while reading and the best part now is, I have a cover for it that has a built in light so I can read at night and not keep Todd awake. (Yes, I tried countless other book lights before that on my traditional books but none worked for me.) Also, living in the middle of nowhere, I would panic if I was about to end a book and couldn’t get to town to get another one right away. While I can read twice as fast on my Kindle too – reports show that we don’t retain as much reading from an electronic device as we do a traditional bound book. But I say, “What the heck,” I’m reading for pure fun and enjoyment anyway! While reading for research or work, I do read traditional  bound books – but I read Historical Fiction on my Kindle for the simple joy of it! Before my mom went home to be with the Lord, she lived with us for a long time. She read at least eight hours a day, but probably a lot more than that. I couldn’t get books for her fast enough. That was before I discovered the Kindle (and I doubt she would have used one anyway) and I took literally boxes and boxes of books to our local library each month. It was a wonderful thing we shared when I was growing up, and a wonderful thing we shared in the final stages of her life. We often discussed the books we were reading together. If I read it first, I’d have to be careful not to spoil it for her while I waited for her to finish it!

So I planned to list several of my favorite books here, but once again, I’ve become so long-winded I’ve probably lost most of you by now! But folks ask me for book recommendations all the time so tonight I will just give you one, and then revisit this subject with more titles soon.  One of my all time favorite books is, “These is My Words,” by Nancy Turner. Of course, if you read that, then you MUST read the other two books in the series, “Sarah’s Quilt,” and “The Star Garden.” This wonderful series about the life of Sarah Agnes Prine will stay with you forever. (Note: The first couple of chapters are hard to get through, but stay with it!) You will think of Sarah during the day when you are not reading, as if you know her personally, and you will mourn her when the series is over. If you recall, we did an interview with Nancy Turner in the Summer 2010 issue of A Simple Life.

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Leave me a comment, or drop me an email with your favorite book! Hopefully it will be one I haven’t read before! I promise to list many more of my favorites in the future !

Before I close, I must wish my “Bubbies,” – aka Todd, a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY! This is him in the middle at a recent horse sale in Oklahoma. We will celebrate tonight with C A K E !!!


Meet the Family!

A lot of you know many of the folks who make up the Simple Life family. You see them at shows, read their articles etc. But today, I want to share with you my behind-the-scenes family who make the magazine run on a daily basis. For those of you who call in, or email about your subscription, order from the catalog, or most any other need, you talk to my sister-in-law, Kay. We are married to brothers. Kay is a GEM with a capital “G!”  She is gracious to everyone who calls and I hear it all the time at shows how nice Kay is to everyone. She keeps everything running smoothly, including me!

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Here she is with one of her goats, “John Deere,” and one of her many chickens. She also has two dogs at her home in West Texas. Kay has 2 daughters,  3 grandsons and 2 granddaughters. She is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside! She has been with us since nearly day one!

Heather is our bookkeeper.  Heaven knows they don’t let me touch the money. When I absolutely have to, we pert near have to call an emergency meeting of the higher ups to straighten it all out! Lets just say Heather and Kay have to make everything balance and I just want to sell things and chat with everyone!  Heather has been with us since day one too. She lives about 15 miles from where I did in central Texas. In fact, Heather worked with me in our graphics business which we had for 15 years before we started Publishing. (Actually,  Kay worked with us in our graphics business too, and so did her husband Scott.)  Heather is married to a great guy and she has a daughter, grandson and granddaughter. Her granddaughter is brand new! She is an avid horse lover and barrel races nearly every weekend. She loves dogs like I do and also has a pet pig named Frankie, who loves Cheerios. I love Heather dearly, as I do Kay, and I am so grateful they keep me straight. Heather does all those awful jobs like payroll, tax prep, budgets, keeps the master list for the magazine, debits, credits … all those words I cringe at!

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Ahhhhh…. and then there is HELEN. Helen is simply put, “A Gift from God.”  I hardly knew Helen when I first asked her to be the editor of A Simple Life. In fact, I believe I had just met her that very night. I had heard about her for years, from various friends we had in common. Helen is so many things … a literal genius, an avid early American Antique collector for over 60 years, the most knowledgeable person I know about antiques, and well, everything really. She is hilariously funny and keeps me laughing every single day, and she is a MASTER of the English language and how to use it. (She doesn’t know about this blog yet, and she will cringe when she reads it and sees all of my mistakes!) She has tried countless times to teach me grammar but I think she has given up. It goes without saying that she is a remarkable writer, and  she also makes all of our other writers shine too.  Oh, and Helen was also a very prominent doll maker back in the day – many of you will remember her wonderful creations. Today she mainly spends her free time  rug hooking – and of course reading countless books, learning more and more about antiques and being with her family in Texas. This is her, on the far left.


Last but not least, here is my Todd. Many of you already know him, from when I occasionally drag him to shows. He loves antiques, but getting him away from the farm is not always easy.  He raises running quarter horses and registered Simmental cattle. He has literally been in the race horse business since birth (that is how we met) and he will be until the day the Lord calls him home. He eats, sleeps and breathes horses. His business has changed slightly since our move to VA, but his cow business is actually easier here than in the Texas droughts. Every cow has a name and they all eat out of his hand. He works behind the scenes doing many, many, jobs for ASL – it all depends on the day. We’ve been together 30 years this year … and were married at the Museum of Appalachia in Irwin’s Chapel. John Rice gave me away! That is a story for another day !!!  This is our pet bull, who we raised from birth and he is as tame as a dog. (for my cattle friends – yes, he is an Angus, not a Simmental.)


Wow, I never intended to write a novel! I hope you are still with me here ! I apologize! But I am so proud of my behind-the-scenes family and I wanted you all to meet! I love them each dearly and I’m so grateful for all they do for A Simple Life and for me!   I mean it sincerely when I say, “There would be no ASL without them!”                                           ~Until another day …. see you soon!

Hittin’ the Road!

Just about packed – I’m hittin’ the road and Pennsylvania bound! Market Square Wholesale Shows here I come.  I’ve got lots of Cash and Carry goods for our wonderful shop owners, as well as great sales on books. We love our loyal shops that carry our books and magazines! So many of them have been on this journey with me since the very first book, about ten years ago! I love you guys! Lookin’ forward to seeing you.


No breakdowns on the trip – only the Fiddlin’ or Banjer kind! I’ve already shared with you how much I love music and I really get to fall in love with my ipod all over again on road trips. Believe it or not I only got a cell phone this Christmas. Santa brought me a fancy, smanchy iphone 6 plus something or other. I absolutely understand the need to have one on the road and I had a disposable Walmart phone for emergencies, but no one had the number. When I’m on the road (and I am a lot) I look forward to the drive time to be alone with my thoughts, (and tunes!) to worship and sing, or just be quiet, admire the beauty around me and not be inundated by phone calls, emails, web dings and technology.

So on the way, when I’m fresh and excited to get there I will be listening to Ralph Stanley, Gillian Welch, Emmylou, Ray and Vern … But on the trip home when it’s the midnight hour, I’m tired, and I just want to get home to my pups – THEN I will be playing this as loud as the speakers will go!

Before you start sending hate mail, I agree that no one can do this song like Janis Joplin, but I gotta admit, Pink comes real close! But I do love me some Janis in the midnight hour!