‘Better than finding gold’

Web-based genealogy increases local enthusiasm for family history

By Patrick Smith


Members of the Warren County Genealogical Association research old family photos during a recent meeting.

Anyone familiar with middle Tennessee’s past knows there’s no shortage of history tied to the region.

From the thousands of people who went deep into the coal mines each day, to those who swung the hammers to build the railroad lines crisscrossing the South, to those who fought and died during the Civil War — the area’s identity has been shaped by these events and more.

Now local historical organizations, with the help of broadband, are working to preserve this history for future generations.

Organizations like the Warren County Genealogical Association, Bon Air Mountain Historical Society and Grundy County Historical Society are patching together days gone by and volunteering their time and resources to find the missing pieces of local history and the genealogy of local families. Fueled by tools like Facebook, Ancestry.com and an ample amount of books at libraries, researchers are finding the missing links in family trees and learning about the building blocks of the community.


The Grundy County Historical Society has more than 1,600 books in its research library.

“People will post a picture on Facebook, asking for help identifying the people in the photo, and it just seems like it goes wild,” says Linda Mackie, president of the Bon Air Mountain Historical Society. “We’re constantly finding someone’s relative or new information about the community. It’s amazing what you can find with the help of technology.”

Changing genealogy

Cheryl Watson Mingle credits her seventh-grade teacher and a family ancestry homework assignment with sparking her interest in genealogy. She got hooked at an early age and can now trace her lineage, with documentation, back to the Mayflower. She’s spent hours poring over books, traveling the country visiting her ancestors’ gravesites and, with the help of the Internet, she’s traveling the world with a few clicks of her mouse. Mingle, the president of the Warren County Genealogical Association, has developed a deep appreciation for understanding her roots. “You get hooked,” says Mingle. “So much history and genealogy has been destroyed, and we’re doing our best to keep it alive.”

With the help of broadband, the trips that may have previously been required are wiped away. Broadband alleviates the expense, the time and the uncertainty — Mingle explains that many of the next questions one might have after doing some research have already been answered by someone looking up similar information. “Without the Internet, you’d have to go to England, or wherever is necessary, to find the facts,” says Mingle. “The genealogy and history sites have helped greatly.”

For the times when everything falls into place and she finds a long-lost relative, it’s like solving a puzzle. “It’s so awesome when you’ve done years of research and, finally, you find a picture of your great-great-grandfather on the Internet,” says Marion Rhea Speaks, vice president of the WCGA. “It’s almost overwhelming.”

With everything that’s changed because of the Internet, local organizations are still periodically publishing bulletins to catalog the new information they discover.

At the Grundy County Historical Society, they’ve gathered a vast database of records, both paper and digital, with more than 1,600 books in its research library. Each of the local organizations also sees visitors from across the country that have stumbled upon middle Tennessee in hopes of finding their missing relatives.


The Bon Air Mountain Historical Society is housed in an old railroad house.

Sharing history with the community

Much like the historical events that shaped the community, there’s also no shortage of famous people and places from the middle Tennessee area. Locals like Confederate Gen. George Dibrell, bluegrass musician Lester Flatt, baseball hall of fame outfielder Earl Webb and country music star Dottie West all called the South Cumberland area home.

If famous names don’t get you excited, some of the buildings peppered throughout the region just might. Many structures throughout the area can be found on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Sparta Rock House, Falcon Rest Mansion and even the railroad house that today harbors the Bon Air Mountain Historical Society. “The building was donated to the county with the instructions that it be used for a local history museum,” says Mackie. “It’s wonderful to keep its legacy alive for the community.”


WCGA members, from left, Marion Rhea Speaks, Cheryl Watson Mingle, Doyle Speaks and Scarlett Duggin Griffith look over family photos.

There are also a handful of local celebrations to bring the history alive. Two of the most prominent events are the Swiss Festival, hosted by the Grundy County Swiss Historical Society and the Bon Air Mountain History Fair, held at BonDeCroft Elementary School. The history fair also features tours to different points of interest throughout the community. “The coal mining companies operated self-sufficient towns up here,” says Mackie. “It’s important to share this history with the community. The fair has become a very popular event.”

No matter what piques your interest for history — famous people, famous places or just learning a little more about your ancestors — the fun of it all is connecting the dots and piecing the past together. “When I find something new, to me, that’s better than finding gold. I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” says Mingle.


Local points of interest

♥ Warren County Genealogical Association
Online: www.tngenweb.org/wcgatn

♥ Bon Air Mountain Historical Society
Online: www.bonairmountainhistoricalsociety.org

♥ Grundy County Historical Society
Online: www.grundycountyhistory.org

♥ Sparta Rock House
Online: www.spartatn.com/historic

♥ The Swiss Festival will be held on July 25 at the Stocker-Stampfli Farm Museum in Gruetli-Laager.
Online: www.swisshistoricalsociety.org

♥ Bon Air History Fair will be held May 3 at the BonDeCroft Elementary School in Sparta.
Online: www.bonairmountainhistoricalsociety.org

How do you broadband?

Fiber connection is helping area resident “live the dream”

By Patrick Smith

Margaret Petre regularly makes presentations in Nashville boardrooms without being there.

Broadband_6084Most of the time she’s not physically in the office — she’s controlling the boardroom computer while sitting at her dining room table in Walling, Tennessee.

Petre is among a growing number of people who are able to work from home. High-speed Internet service, provided by companies like Ben Lomand, are allowing more and more people to put in a full day of work without ever leaving the comforts of their homes.

“I love it,” says Petre. “It provides a lot of flexibility because my husband and I also manage our farm, so being able to work from home and not having to go anywhere is great. That’s the beauty of it all.”

Petre spent decades working in the entertainment industry, often working at offices in Nashville and New York City. She cashed paychecks from some of entertainment’s biggest organizations — TNN, CBS, MTV and Gaylord Entertainment — but after being laid off in 2013, she decided to return to Walling, a town that’s close to her family’s deep roots in rural Tennessee.

“There was no plan to work from home when I moved here,” says Petre. “Fortunately, this just all landed in my lap. I knew something would come up, but I was very surprised that Ben Lomand offered fiber here. I didn’t even have access to fiber in my suburb in Nashville.”

Today, Petre’s days are filled by managing projects as a contractor for two Nashville entertainment companies. She’ll regularly participate in conference calls, presentations and software implementations from her home. She’s using Skype, WebEx, Microsoft Office 365 and other programs daily to participate in online training and project implementations.

For Ben Lomand members like Petre, the cooperative is making a difference that’s directly impacting the quality of their lives. Ben Lomand’s commitment to deliver fiber to each and every member means they brought fiber lines miles and miles down the road to Petre.

“Its a lot easier to deal with someone like Ben Lomand — they’re my neighbors,” says Petre. “They live just around the corner, and they really care.”

With her fiber connection from Ben Lomand, Petre can work with anyone, located anywhere in world — all from her kitchen table. While working on projects, she often communicates with people in California, Chicago and Denver and other programmers based abroad in India and the Philippines.

“I can live anywhere and work,” says Petre. “But if it wasn’t for my connection out here, I wouldn’t be able to do any of this. Being able to work like this is kind of like living the dream. I’ve always wanted to do this type of work and live in the country. Now here I am. I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

SmartHub app makes monitoring your account easy!

Remembering to pay your Ben Lomand bill just got a little simpler.

Ben Lomand has partnered with SmartHub to provide members a safe and secure way to manage their accounts through any device connected to the Internet.

SmartHub makes it possible to access your Ben Lomand account — even multiple accounts — from your computer, tablet or smartphone. You can view and pay your bill online, get timely account information, notify the cooperative of account and service issues, check monthly service usage and receive special notifications from Ben Lomand. Conveniently, SmartHub allows members to set reminders and alerts to be delivered to their device reminding them of due dates.

“With the busy lives everyone seems to live now, we could all use a little help with things like bills,” says Chris Centracchio, Ben Lomand’s security and information systems manager. “The app is right there on your phone to remind you of when your bill is due.”

For Ben Lomand customers currently using online bill pay, their username and password to log in will not change. Studies show that nationally, more than one-third of people who miss due dates on their bills do so because they’ve simply forgotten the bill was due.

The same study, Fiserv’s 2014 Billing Household Survey, found that paying bills through mobile apps, such as SmartHub, is becoming increasingly popular, especially for people ages 18 to 52. The top reasons, according to the surveys, are the speed and convenience of mobile apps as well as the alerts and reminders.

“If you wake up in the middle of the night and realize you forgot to pay your bill, the app is right there on your phone,” Centracchio says. “The SmartHub app is just convenient. It cuts down on a lot of time members would normally spend paying bills.”

Beyond paying bills and checking usage, the SmartHub app can make it easy to call a Ben Lomand customer service advisor or get turn-by-turn directions to your nearest office.

“There’s a lot to like about SmartHub, and I think our members will be surprised at how easy it is to use,” Centracchio says.

Ways to pay

For the times when you don’t need a mobile app, Ben Lomand provides bill payment options online at benlomandconnect.com, by phone and in person. Ben Lomand also offers auto-pay services so you never have to worry about when the bill is due.

Members can pay in person at any Ben Lomand office or by phone 24 hours a day at 1-800 974-7779.

“We’re still happy to accept payments at our offices, but many members have asked for other options, and we’re happy to provide a full line of convenient ways to pay,” Centracchio says.

To get SmartHub

SmartHub is a free app that can be downloaded for iOS and Android users. Search for “SmartHub” in your device’s app store. Click the “Tutorials” link at benlomandconnect.com for video instructions on how to use SmartHub.

By The numbers…

The percentage of consumers using mobile bill pay:

  • 2011 — 6%
  • 2012 — 8%
  • 2013 — 16%
  • 2014 — 27%

-Source: Fiserv 2014 Billing Household Survey

66% of bills are paid online or through automatic payments

20% of bills are paid by mail

9% of bills are paid in person

5% of bills are paid by phone

-Source: 2013 Western Union’s Bill Payments Money Mindset Index

What kind of connection do I need?

Understanding Internet basics can help you select the right connection speed

It’s easy to add new devices to your home or business Internet connection, but don’t forget that you’re still splitting the same bandwidth. The more devices you add to your network, the more your connection could become stressed. If your connection has been a bit sluggish, it may be time to upgrade your Ben Lomand Internet connection. It’s an upgrade you won’t regret!

To better explain how the Internet is used in your home or business, consider the following scenario:

For a young couple without children, a two-door car usually meets their needs just fine. But if they add three children and two dogs, they are going to need to upgrade to a bigger vehicle.

The same is true with your Internet connection from Ben Lomand: A connection that worked fine for a single computer to check email and browse the Web needs an upgrade to handle two laptops, four smartphones and a tablet.

Understanding the Web

To understand how to meet your Internet needs, it’s important to understand a little about how the Internet works. The Internet links millions of computers together through a large, expensive connection. Your connection through Ben Lomand provides devices with a way to join that network.

The size of your share depends on which Internet package or bundle you select. To use a different analogy, imagine if your connection is like a pipe carrying water. Let’s say you need to fill a large water barrel. The barrel will fill much more quickly if you use a hose than if you use a sink sprayer, because the hose has a greater capacity to let the water through.

Your Internet connection works the same way, except it allows for the flow of information rather than water. A larger bandwidth connection — the hose — has a greater capacity to let data through to your devices so the files can “fill up” or download faster.

Splitting the signal

Just like the water line, multiple devices sharing a connection divide up that speed. If someone is watching a movie on a low-bandwidth connection, it’s likely that you’ll notice some jumpiness or a loss of picture quality if someone starts downloading music or playing an online game at the same time. Luckily, Ben Lomand’s new fiber network will give area homes and businesses the speed they need to handle all of their favorite gadgets today and in the future.

Is your home connected?

How to set up a Wi-Fi network to share your broadband Internet connection between your computers, gaming systems, smartphones and other new devices

A wireless network provides the easiest, most efficient way for you to get the most out of all your devices. With the power of the Internet, the latest tablets, smartphones, gaming systems, computers and smart televisions are transformed into more robust devices that can make your life easier.

bigstock-Mobile-devices-icon-49882307By following a few simple tips, you can set up your own Wi-Fi network and get the most out of your new gadgets and your Ben Lomand Internet connection.

But before you jump in with your new device, consider some of these pointers from Bill Jennings, Ben Lomand’s network operations technician — he helps some of the cooperative’s broadband users solve their technical problems.

Why Wi-fi?

Wireless networks have always been convenient for laptop users, but now more and more products are designed to access the Internet through Wi-Fi. “Televisions and printers have been Wi-Fi enabled for a while,” says Jennings. “But now there’s less obvious devices such as bathroom scales and toy helicopters. Once you set up your home network, you can enjoy the full functionality of all your Wi-Fi-enabled devices — along with whatever new gadgets are coming next.”

Imagine doing Internet research and printing documents using your laptop — all from the comfort of your couch. What about playing video games online with friends across the state or around the world? A wireless network, coupled with the power of a Ben Lomand broadband connection, will even allow you to stream music, movies and television programming on your tablets, televisions or iPods.

Build your network

Wi-Fi networks essentially have two pieces: the modem and the router. The modem is the gateway to the Internet and the router is where your devices connect to access that gateway.

Most of the newer modems Ben Lomand sells or rents to customers have Wi-Fi routers built in. But even if your router and modem are separate devices, the installation is fairly easy. Routers usually come with an installation CD that you will need to open on your main computer. Follow the prompts in the software to get the network up and running.

Lock it up

The next step is setting up security to prevent unwanted users from logging onto your network. These freeloaders can slow down your connection speed by using up bandwidth or — worse — use your network for illegal purposes.

bigstock-Wireless-Network-Symbol-wifi--65250274Follow the instructions with your router’s software to enable security features like password protection and encryption. “Make sure to store your passwords in a safe place so you can easily connect to the network,” says Jennings. “There’s nothing worse than having to reset your router because you can’t remember the password.”

As an extra precaution, be sure the firewalls are activated on any computer you plan to connect to your Wi-Fi network.

Connect your devices

Once the network is up and secure, try connecting your devices. You will need to enter your security password on each device you want to connect. Most computers and smartphones have an easily accessed network settings menu where the password can be entered.

Televisions, Blu-ray players and game systems have similar menus, but you will also need to open programs like Pandora or Netflix and follow a few more steps to link the apps with your account. “Sometimes wireless-enabled printers can be a little tricky,” says Jennings. “So follow your printer’s instructions carefully to properly configure the settings.”


If things just don’t seem to be working out, try restarting the process. But this time, set your device to choose the wireless network you’re trying to connect with and tell the devices to “forget this network.” “This will clear out any stored information that may be disrupting the process,” says Jennings. “It’s a clean slate to work from, and it usually solves the problem.”

A wireless network can greatly enhance the benefit you receive from your Ben Lomand broadband Internet connection. Don’t fret! More times than not there’s no issue setting up your network and getting your devices connected — and once you do you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.

Don’t miss the Ben Lomand Connect Annual Meeting

March 21, McMinnville Civic Center
Doors open at 11 a.m., entertainment begins at 12:45 p.m.

  • Refreshments
  • Live entertainment
  • Product demonstrations
  • Door prizes
  • Children’s play area
  • Parting gifts for members

Entertainment by The Holloway Sisters and Outta the Blue
This family band is well-known for its hard-driving music, energetic stage presence and Southern hospitality. Their music ranges from traditional bluegrass to a new-wave bluegrass with a style all their own. They pride themselves on their ability to bring upbeat family fun entertainment to the young and young at heart!

Come out and enjoy the festivities!

With broadband, Ben Lomand is unlocking our community’s potential

By Ray Cantrell
General Manager/CEO

Ray Cantrell

Ray Cantrell

Our culture is fascinated with potential. We talk about athletes at the high school level having great potential, with hopeful futures at the college and pro levels. We talk about friends having the potential to be successful in business, education or the arts.

When we view something as having potential, we believe that within it lies the power for it to become greater than what it is now, to accomplish good things and impact lives in a positive way. I can’t think of a better description for the broadband network we are building today. At Ben Lomand, we’re busy building a state-of-the-art fiber network. The project is transforming our region and preparing us with a new technology that’s truly future-proof. But that is just the beginning of the story. The most important feature of our broadband network is the potential it holds. Studies have shown that when people put broadband to work in their homes and communities, some exciting things happen:

  • Household incomes rise
  • Job opportunities increase
  • Poverty levels and unemployment drop

The potential is there — but the key to unlocking that potential is you. Some of our customers are doing an outstanding job in this area: The Webb House Retirement Center keeps residents connected by providing wireless Internet throughout the entire building, as well as television and telephone service for each personal room. While there is no cell phone service 350 feet underground, Cumberland Caverns offers wireless Internet in their Volcano Room, which is used for concerts, weddings and other events. Paul Flury of Flury & Sons Store enjoys “picking” antiques at flea markets, garage sales and more. He has been able to use his broadband connection to sell some of his finds to customers all over the world. The network we are building today allows you to take advantage of today’s technology. But here’s the most exciting thing: Where the true power lies is in our network’s ability to adapt to new technologies as they become available, freeing you to explore new ways to put broadband to work. You have the tools to reinvent how you live, work and play. So go innovate. Go learn. Go imagine new ways to use the technology we are blessed with in this region. Put it to work to change your community, your family, your business. Then be sure to share your story with us. Like those I mentioned above, your story may inspire someone else to unlock the potential of broadband, while discovering the potential inside themselves.


Real men do eat quiche

By Anne P. Braly

Anne P. Braly

Food Editor Anne P. Braly is a native of Chattanooga, Tenn. Prior to pursuing a freelance career, she spent 21 years as food editor and feature writer at a regional newspaper.

Bea Salley loves to cook. So much so, in fact, that she says she’d like to own a restaurant in her hometown of Walterboro, South Carolina. But until her ship comes in, she’ll stick to catering for area residents in her spare time. Her forte? Quiche.

“I make potato pies, apple pies, coconut pies and cakes, but quiche is my specialty,” she says. “It’s a good, year-round dish, but particularly in the spring.”

Salley’s mother died when she was 13 years old. So with just her father and no siblings, she would never have learned the intricacies of cooking had women in her community — she grew up in Oakman Branch right outside Walterboro — not intervened, taking her under their wing to teach her and stirring her interest in what would become her passion.

But it wasn’t until about 10 years ago that she realized she wanted to make a difference by catering to her community with more healthful food choices.

A healthy choice — With so many ways to prepare quiche, it can be a healthy choice for any season. Be a Salley likes to use ingredients such as fish and vegetables, while keeping the sodium low.

A healthy choice — With so many ways to prepare quiche, it can be a healthy choice for any season. Be a Salley likes to use ingredients such as fish and vegetables, while keeping the sodium low.

“No one in my household — my husband, Fred, our five kids and 10 grandchildren — ever had any problems with high blood pressure or diabetes, and I know what you cook with makes a difference,” she says.

So almost all of her recipes, particularly her quiches, have healthy ingredients, such as fish and vegetables, and not a lot of sodium. And everyone loves them, she adds.

But there’s a saying that’s become quite familiar: “Real men don’t eat quiche.”
Not so, Salley says.

“There are a lot of men who love my quiche. They say it’s filling, so they don’t have to eat as much.”

David Walton of Summerville is one example. He’s been eating and enjoying Salley’s quiches for at least a dozen years. “‘Real men don’t eat quiche’ simply isn’t true when you have quiche as good as Bea’s!” he says.

And it’s this time of year that Salley’s kitchen heats up with quiches in her oven. People like to be outside in the warm weather and not inside cooking, so Salley does it for them.

“Quiche is a quick, full meal for friends and family,” she says. Serve a slice of quiche with a salad and a basket of bread, and you have a complete, healthy dinner. Leftovers are even better — if there are any to be had.

Whether you’re baking a brunch-friendly bacon-and-egg-filled treat for Easter or an elegant vegetarian dinner served with a healthy lettuce or fruit salad, quiche is extremely easy to adapt in a number of delicious ways. The recipes that follow are some of Salley’s favorites.

Veggie Quiche

1/4 stick (2 tablespoons) butter
Quiche_11611/2 onion, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1 10-ounce bag spinach
1 12-ounce container fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 medium zucchini, sliced
1 medium yellow squash, sliced
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cheddar cheese (or cheese of your choice), plus more for
1/2 cup sour cream
1 9-inch pie crust (store-bought or homemade)

Heat oven to 350°F. Melt butter in skillet over medium heat; add onions and bell pepper; let simmer. Add spinach, mushrooms, zucchini and squash; cover and saute until softened. Stir in salt and pepper; let cool, then pour in bowl and add eggs, flour and cheese, blending mixture together. Last, add sour cream, blending well. Pour into crust, sprinkle with shredded cheese and bake for 40 minutes or until quiche is set around the edges and still slightly loose in the center. Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes before cutting.

Salmon and Mushroom Quiche

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup onions, diced
1 16-ounce container fresh
 mushrooms, sliced
1 large can salmon
1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup flour
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 9-inch pie crust
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Heat oven to 400°F. Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat; add onions and let simmer for 3 minutes until onions are soft. Add mushrooms, stirring until soft, then add salmon. Blend mixture together, let cool, then add Swiss cheese, eggs, flour, sour cream, salt and pepper. Blend all together, then pour into crust, sprinkle with cheddar cheese and bake for 35 minutes or until quiche is set around the edges and still slightly loose in the center. Remove from oven and let it sit for a few minutes before cutting.

Note: This quiche is also good served “crustless.” Bake in pie pan that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray using no pie crust. Follow directions as written.

Bea’s Pie Crust

This is the quickest and simplest pastry crust ever, and it tastes great.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shortening (preferably Crisco)
5 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
3-4 tablespoons ice water
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Whisk together flour and salt in medium bowl. Add shortening and butter, tossing with fingers until pieces are well-coated with the flour mixture. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, cut the shortening and butter into the dry ingredients. Drizzle in 3 tablespoons of the ice water and the lemon juice; mix just until the dough comes together, adding the last tablespoon of water if the dough is too dry. Do not overwork the dough or it will become too tough. Pat the dough into a flat disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour before rolling out.

Tips to make the perfect quiche

Quiche is a simple idea for brunch or dinner, but getting it right can be difficult. Here are a few key steps to ensure that your quiche will be creamy and your crust will be flaky.

  • The crust: The first step to a good quiche is having a great pastry shell. It will come out better if you parbake (partially bake) it for about 10 minutes so that it’s dry and crisp before adding your filling.
  • Seal it: To avoid a soggy pastry, brush the bottom of the crust with an egg wash (a beaten egg white) right after parbaking it. The warmth of the crust when you remove it from the oven is all you need to “cook” the egg white and seal the shell to help keep it crispy.
  • Say “no” to low-fat: There’s nothing worse than wimpy flavor when you bite into a quiche, so make sure to avoid using low-fat or nonfat ingredients. Their high water content prevents the quiche from setting properly, resulting in a watery finish.
  • Protect the edges: Once in the oven, keep an eye on the shell, and if the edges of the pastry start browning too quickly, wrap them in a little aluminum foil.
  • Loose is a good rule of thumb: Take the quiche out of the oven when the center is still slightly wobbly. This will ensure that it doesn’t over-cook and will still have its creamy custard texture when you cut into it.

Can you hear the music?

You’re only a click away from your favorite tunes

By Cecil H. Yancy Jr.

The Rolling Stones asked, “Can you hear the music?” And the answer is, yes! You can easily listen on your computer or mobile device anytime you like.
Digital music services offer you two ways to listen to old favorites or explore new artists.

A download captures the music on your computer for use in the future — think of being able to burn a CD or play the music by clicking on a file from your computer. On the other hand, music streaming is like having a steady flow of music coming into your computer. Just click and create stations from artists you choose.

While downloads have their advantages, streaming appears to be the wave of the future. By this year, according to a Pew Research Institute study, as many as 80 percent of Americans will listen to audio on digital devices. While 51 percent of all adults say they listen to music on these devices, age makes a big difference in music habits, according to the study. More than 60 percent of millennials and 58 percent of Gen Xers listen to music online compared with 48 percent of younger Boomers. Older Americans tend to prefer the traditional AM/FM radio format. But streaming music is getting so easy, music lovers of all ages can jump on board.

Open the box to music streaming

Woman Listening To Music On Her TabletPandora opened the box with one of the first online Internet radio services. With Pandora, you can listen free for 40 hours per month, with advertisements. Pay $36 a year and get the music without commercials. It’s easy to use. Say you like Johnny Cash: Type in his name and a “radio station” of his songs and those of similar audiences will begin playing. The best part is Pandora gives you background information about the artist as the music is playing. You can even skip a certain number of songs you don’t like.

New releases and exclusives

Spotify is another big player in the music-streaming arena. It has a 20-million-plus song catalog from the major record labels, which can be organized into playlists that allow users to stream their own lists or lists from friends or celebrities. The basic features are free after downloading the application, or the premium version is $9.99 per month. Music on Spotify can be imported from iTunes and synced with a mobile device so you can make your favorite songs available anywhere you go!

Create your own iTunes station

In addition to 25 DJ-curated and genre-based stations, iTunes Radio allows you to create personalized radio stations or follow “guest DJ” stations from famous artists. You can pause, skip and playback with iTunes Radio and even buy the tune you’re currently listening to. If you have an iTunes Match Account for $25 per year, it’s ad-free. iTunes Radio is a great merge between a download provider and a streaming service.

A couple of clicks and no cost

Silver Ear Bud HeadphonesIf you’re leaning toward listening to music online, but a bit overwhelmed by the choices, check out sites that only require a couple of clicks to get started and are designed to be more like your radio.

Sites like Boomerradio.com and Bluegrassmix.com offer an easy way to listen to your favorite tunes, with either stations or DJs that pick the tunes. On the Bluegrass site, DJs host shows. On the Boomer Radio site, users can pick from moods like acoustic café, sweet soul music and classic mix.

Perfectly Imperfect

For the everyday home

A Q&A with Shaunna West, a blogger from Troy, Alabama, who writes about everything from painting furniture to decorating to homeschooling. 

Shaunna West

Shaunna West

What will readers find at your blog?
Shaunna West: Perfectly Imperfect is a window into our lives. You’ll find DIY projects, furniture makeovers, before-and-after room makeovers, shop talk, topics on running a creative business and even a few family posts.

Why did you become a blogger, and how has blogging changed your life?
SW: I have been writing since I was a little girl, and in 2009, I needed to write. I began sharing my furniture-painting techniques and the process of our attic renovation, and soon, the blog became a business and a place for people to seek inspiration for their everyday homes. The community and readers at Perfectly Imperfect took me completely by surprise. There is a world of people interested in the same things you are, and if you’re lucky, you’ll even develop relationships with these incredible people. The Internet can be used for such good, and its reach is incredible. I’m grateful for PI, for my readers and for their willingness to listen to what I have to say.

What are some big trends in decorating this spring and summer?
SW: Any time you gear into spring and summer, people are going to be looking to brighten and lighten their homes. There are lots of beautiful metallics out there and lots of blues and golds and greens as far as colors. Anything you can do to try and make your home feel fresh and clean. Spring is the time when we all begin to organize and begin to purge and pare down and only have what’s necessary in the home. Homes should be functional and efficient as well as beautiful.

Check out her blog: www.PerfectlyImperfectBlog.com

Shaunna’s tips for changing your home on a budget

living roomKeep in mind that your home is your sanctuary away from the busyness of the world. Take the time to create spaces you enjoy and that create rest for you and your family.

If you’re feeling like your home has become dark and dreary, give the walls a fresh coat of paint in lighter neutrals. It will instantly brighten your space. My favorites are Benjamin Moore White Diamond, Sherwin Williams Sea Salt, Sherwin Williams Crushed Ice and Sherwin Williams Comfort Gray.

Save and invest in key pieces like your sofa and armchairs, and shop flea markets and antique malls for small end tables and dressers. You’ll be amazed how much you’ll save when you allow time for your space to come together.
Paint everything in sight. Seriously, paint is the cheapest and fastest way to transform your home. Have a coffee table you love, but hate how beaten up it is? Paint it, and you will have a new piece of furniture in a few hours.

Whatever your interest, there is likely an online community of people who share that interest with you. Our “Featured Blogger” series introduces you to people who write websites about a variety of topics. In the May/June issue, we’ll focus on marriage and relationships.

Other home/DIY blogs you might like:

Layla shares her love of cottage style with readers.

Tracey describes herself striving to create beauty in her heart and in her home.

KariAnne shares her transition from the big city to a slower-paced, happier life.