Hi, my name is Candy in Austin, TX and this my blog to rave (and sometimes rant) about books, movies, products, services or just whatever strikes my fancy. I love when people comment on my blog, so feel free to agree or disagree or maybe I inspired you to try something?

Disclaimer: I do get some of these books/products for free for doing an honest review. Yes, those are affiliate links and I could be compensated if you purchase through them. It\'s always small and it always goes to my kids college funds.

24 April 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Strad Rosin for Violin

strad rosin for violinThis is SO cute. My daughter had a big recital coming up and I wanted to get her something special, but I didn’t want to give her flowers afterwards and I didn’t want to give her something not related to her violin. I came on here looking for ideas and I stumbled across this. I figured the rosin would be sub-par, but I wasn’t worried about that, it was the idea of it that drew me to it.

When I gave it to her, she was thrilled! It took her a few minutes to figure out that it opened and rosin was inside. She’s been using it when she practices in conjunction with another rosin and she says the two together are just perfect for her. So, the rosin is actually good quality. But not the case. It really is cute! It’s a perfect gift for the violinist in your life.

Note: We actually had to order two of these. The first one, we dropped opening it and it cracked all to pieces. Don’t let that deter you – it fell five foot directly onto hard ceramic flooring, not much survives that drop.

Description:
This unique box contains Bogaro & Clemente’s own high-quality violin rosin, which is based on an old Italian recipe. This box is handcrafted from root of tuja wood, with the precise, to-scale shape of Stradivarius’s famed interior form. This rosin is formulated for violins.

Rating: ★★★★★

14 April 2015 ~ 7 Comments

Time Travel: Where Would You Go?

Guest Blogger: By Cheri Gillard, Author of Chloe’s Guardian and Chloe’s Watcher, a YA Time Travel Adventure Series

cover for series book 1Have you ever wished you could time travel? I sure have. I think about where I would go and what I’d do there. Sometimes, I imagine what I’d change in my own life, and other times I think up things I’d do to change historical events. My favorite time travel books include Doomsday Book, The Time Traveler’s Wife, Time and Again, and 11/22/63. There are so many books with time travel, it’s clear many, many people love the idea of it.

When I got the idea for Chloe’s Guardian, Book 1 of the Nephilim Redemption Series, I was doing research for some freelance work and I came across a really short (and weird) story in the Bible. I’d never heard of it before. It was about angels marrying humans and having kids with them, and those kids being called Nephilim. Bizarre, right? Who hasn’t heard of Noah and the Ark, or David and Goliath? But angels and humans having babies? It caught my attention!

With more research, I found a lot of other literature about them. The angels who married the humans were fallen angels—a.k.a. demons. That made things more interesting. Their kids, the Nephilim, were giants. (Some think Goliath was one.) So I started brainstorming about it. What if Nephilim—you know, these half-angel, half-humans—could fly around like angels and demons, but sometimes be like regular (really tall) humans? What if they could fly into other dimensions, like where heaven and hell might be, and go in and out of time and time travel? My brain really started to whirl then.

What if they had powers to do miracles? What if they fought in battles with supernatural weapons? What if they could change matter, walk through walls, disappear and reappear, read minds, and change their appearance?

I love good love stories that make my heart swoon and yearn. So of course, Chloe’s just had to have some romance. I’m a musician, so I wanted to have music play a part in the story. I love historical Scotland (and current-day Scotland, too!). My family heritage includes the Scots. (Sadly, my last known Scottish relative was hanged for horse thieving.) Put all that together with my obsession with time travel, and that’s how my ideas for Chloe and her Nephilim companions came into creation. cover ebook Watcher

Chloe is a high school cellist who just wants to be accepted and loved. Unfortunately, the one guy that she really hopes loves her cheats on her and leaves her totally heartbroken. So badly devastated, in fact, she is suicidal. That’s when her new Guardian Angel comes in—Horace. Well, he’s not a real Guardian Angel. Poor Chloe—she has to put up with an alcoholic, self-centered pretend Guardian who only agreed to watch over her because he’s trying to earn points with the real angels. He’s decided to leave the other demons behind to try to be good. But that leaves Chloe with more problems than she started with. Especially once Horace gets her in trouble with his vengeful demon father. Horace must hide her and decides the past would be the safest place. But when his father takes his powers away, Chloe is stuck in medieval Scotland with no one to help her survive—or get back to her real life in her own time.

Where would you go if you could time travel? Would you change anything? Something in your own life? Like take that stupid test again that you could have aced, if you’d just realized which chapters the questions would be about? Or maybe never say “hello” to that idiot you wasted six whole months dating when you could have saved yourself so much drama and pain? Or would you decide to try to change something bigger, like show up in just the right moment to stop a serial killer or warn someone to save them from death? What would you do if you were marooned somewhere in the past? In what time period would you want to be stuck? What if you could fly, change matter, or read minds? It’s fun to imagine what we might do. It says something about who we are, too, don’t you think? Tell me what you imagine! You can visit me on Facebook or my website.

You might want to try my time travel book quiz to see how many book title on time travel you can recognize. Some are classics you’ve probably had to read in school, and some are new and fun. Maybe you’ll find a new book you’ve never heard of that is about to become your next new-favorite title!

Chloe’s Guardian and Chloe’s Watcher are available in both ebook and paperback.

About Cheri Gillard
cheri head shot 3Cheri Gillard has been a freelance writer and editor for over twenty years, working for several publishing houses and companies writing or editing projects, books, magazines, and curricula. Before writing, she was an obstetric and pediatric registered nurse, but she hung up her nurse’s cap when she gave birth to quadruplets. She is also a musician, regularly playing violin in a folk-style band and in other venues when she can fit in the gigs between writing jobs. She lives with her family in Colorado.

24 February 2015 ~ 1 Comment

Online Dating Inspired Click: An Online Love Story, Double Click and Right Click

Guest Blogger: By Lisa Becker

cover photoI first met my husband while wearing my pajamas.  Really!  No, we weren’t at some kinky singles party.  I was sitting comfortably in my apartment and he was hanging out in his.  But, I will never forget his email introduction via an online dating service, which invited me to check out his profile.  It was sweet, endearing and intriguing enough for me to log on to learn more about him.  After a week of emails, followed by a week of phone calls, we met for our first date – a traditional dinner and movie outing.  Even before I opened the door to greet him, I knew he was “the one.”  Considering he lived 30 miles away, I’m not certain our paths would have typically crossed.  But after nearly 15 years together – including 10 years of marriage (which in Los Angeles is apparently no small feat!) and two beautiful daughters, I have no doubt he is my soul mate.

After my now-husband and I met online, I was recalling some of the hilarious experiences that I had during the whole online dating experience.  How could I forget the guy who started every story (no joke!) with “My buddies and I were out drinking one night.”   I decided to capture some of them in writing and, from there and based loosely on my own experiences, my novel Click: An Online Love Story emerged.  The entire story is told in emails between our heroine, Renee Greene, her three best friends and the gentlemen suitors she meets online.  The format felt like a modern way to tell the story that fit the topic, and allowed readers to develop an intimate relationship with the characters.

Double Click cover - hi resClearly, I’m a big fan of online dating and find it to be a useful tool for young professionals who are busy working and finding it difficult to make the right connection at the gym, bar, coffee shop or grocery aisle.  I say, people today are “married” to their cell phones and laptops, so why not use that technology to really get married, right?

While Click doesn’t end with a wedding (sorry for the spoiler!), during Renee’s road to happiness, we find many advantages to online dating.  My five favorite are:

  • On Your Own Terms – Online dating provides a relaxed, anytime and on your own terms experience. Share as little or as much information as you want.  Avoid people you are not interested in.  Communicate at your convenience.   But, don’t send a message at 2:30 am.  Nothing smacks more of desperation than an email from someone trolling the Internet for a date in the wee hours of the morning.
  • Multi-Tasking Enabled – Flirt while filing your taxes. Chat and trim your nails.  Meet a mate while making breakfast.  It’s a well-known fact that women are great multi-taskers.  Take full advantage of that skill.  As Shelley, the over-sexed character in Click says to the about-to-try-online-dating Renee, “A whole host of hot and horny single men that I can review, chat with, judge and mock – all while sitting in my office looking very busy.  Maybe I should give it a try myself.”
  • Trade the “Meat Market” for the “Meet Market” – Now you can avoid the “meat market” scene of bars and clubs and instead enjoy a “meet market” – an international bazaar (but let’s hope not too bizarre) of prospective mates. The Internet allows you to make an online introduction to thousands if not millions of people around the world.  So, if you want to meet someone in Katmandu, well then, can do!front cover final copy
  • Save Time, Money and Energy – Let’s face it. Dating isn’t cheap.   It takes time, money and, likely your most valuable and scarce resource, energy.   With the “try before you buy” environment of online dating, you don’t have to meet for a drink, grab a coffee or sit through a long dinner only to discover there’s no physical attraction, you have nothing in common, conversation is lacking, etc.
  • Rejection Made Easy – In Click, Renee gets an email from someone halfway across the world looking to meet someone willing to move for him. After sending a polite and diplomatic “thanks but no thanks” email message, she proclaims to her friend, “It’s so much easier to reject someone over that Internet than in real life.  Score one for online dating!”   While rejection is easier for both parties when done online, it’s important to remember that people still have feelings.

As I’ve said many times before, if it happened for me, there’s hope for you.

About the Books

Unfolding exclusively in emails, the Click trilogy (Click: An Online Love Story, Double Click and Right Click) marries the friendships of Sex and the City, the epistolary nature of Bridget Jones’ Diary and the online love story of You’ve Got Mail to be a light and breezy series for anyone who’s ever been dumped, been in love, had a bad date or is still searching for “the one.”  The screenplay based on the first book has recently been optioned for a movie.


 

About Lisa Becker

Headshot 2.jpgLisa had endured her share of hilarious and heinous cyber dates, many of which inspired Click: An Online Love StoryDouble Click and Right Click.  The books, about a young woman’s search for love online in Los Angeles, have been called, “a fast read that will keep you entertained,” “a fun, quick read for fans of Sex and the City,” and “hard to put down.”  The first in the series has now been optioned for a major motion picture.

She’s written bylined articles about writing and online dating for Chick Lit Central, Cupid’s Pulse and numerous book blogs.  Her books and story have also been featured in Single Edition, Career 2.0 and The Perfect Soulmate among other websites.

A former public relations professional, Lisa has worked with some of the biggest consumer companies in the world including McDonald’s, Ford, Sony and Gatorade.  She’s also a former college professor, teaching public relations and communications classes at University of Southern California and Oglethorpe University.

As Lisa’s grandmother used to say, “for every chair, there’s a tush.”  Lisa is now happily married to a wonderful man she met online and lives in Manhattan Beach with him and their two daughters.

 

03 February 2015 ~ 0 Comments

I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son

raised timid sonI really wanted to love this book. I made it about half way through before I realized that I probably wasn’t going to. I finished it hoping I’d grow to love it. It just didn’t happen. And that was disappointing because this is one of my favorite genres and I actually enjoy the off-kilter.

I think the problem I had with this book is the cohesion. It lacked it. I get that this was essays and they were all linked by an undertone of his family’s screwed-up-iness and, in theory, a study on masculinity. The problem is that I don’t think it did either well enough. Really, this should be two books. A true memoir would have been a treat from this author. It’s obvious he has an amazing story to tell, one that I would be honored to sit down and devour. The story is there, but the lack of flow doesn’t make this a true memoir. It wants to be a deep essay on masculinity and how that’s perceived, both internally and externally, but adding in the family situations just made it feel broken.

Overall, this isn’t bad for a first book. I think I was also a bit disappointed that instead of a book of new material, some was recycled from previous published articles by this author. I do realize this is done quite often, but the lack of focus in the book really distracted from his message.

That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy what I read. The stories themselves, taken in small bites, were decent enough. It’s just not what the description led me to believe I was getting into. It really does feel like the author is trying too hard. I liked it enough that I would pick up something else by this author, but I’d probably peek at other reviews first to see if he (or a really good editor) were able to pull it together into one unit.

Recommended for those die hard memoir folks, but just know what you’re getting into.

Description:
From one of the most ferociously brilliant and distinctive young voices in literary nonfiction: a debut shot through with violence, comedy, and feverish intensity that takes us on an odyssey into an American netherworld, exposing a raw personal journey along the way.Locked in battle with both his adult appetites and his most private childhood demons, Kent Russell hungers for immersive experience and revelation, and his essays take us to society’s ragged edges, the junctures between savagery and civilization. He pitches a tent at an annual four-day music festival in Illinois, among the misunderstood, thick-as-thieves fans who self-identify as Juggalos. He treks to the end of the continent to visit a legendary hockey enforcer, the granddaddy of all tough guys, to see how he’s preparing for his last foe: obsolescence. He spends a long weekend getting drunk with a self-immunizer who is willing to prove he has conditioned his body to withstand the bites of the most venomous snakes. He insinuates himself with a modern-day Robinson Crusoe on a tiny atoll off the coast of Australia. He explores the Amish obsession with baseball, and his own obsession with horror, blood, and guts. And in the piercing interstitial meditations between these essays, Russell introduces us to his own raging and inimitable forebears.I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son, blistering and deeply personal, records Russell’s quest to understand, through his journalistic subjects, his own appetites and urges, his persistent alienation, and, above all, his knotty, volatile, vital relationship with his father. In a narrative that can be read as both a magnificent act of literary mythmaking and a howl of filial despair, Russell gives us a haunting and unforgettable portrait of an America—and a paradigm of American malehood—we have never before seen

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Book count for 2015: 1

21 January 2015 ~ 1 Comment

An Interview with Marianne Jones

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Your novels, Great-Grandma’s Gifts and The Serenity Stone Murder are for younger readers. Why do you choose to write in the Children’s and Middle Grade genres?
Actually, The Serenity Stone Murder is a humorous cozy mystery for adults. I also have written a poetry collection titled Here, on the Ground, written and directed several plays, and done journalism. It must be my A.D.D.! I enjoy so many different forms of writing.

The synopsis for Great-Grandma’s Gifts reads that this story “is designed to help children see a different side of the elders in their lives.” This is a very touching sentiment. What’s the story behind the inspiration for this book?
The story is a tribute to my mother, who never had much money, but used her time, love, talent, and fabric scraps to create clothes, dolls, toys, stuffed animals and quilts for her family. As she was growing older, I wanted to honour her while she was still with us. At the same time, I knew she wouldn’t be around to watch my grandchildren grow up. I wanted them to know what their great-grandmother was all about.

What about Serenity Stone? Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or is it purely based on imagination?
My sister had been urging me to write a murder mystery set in Thunder Bay, our home town. One day she described to me a hilarious experience she had attending a women’s conference with a friend. As she told me about it, the characters of Margaret and Louise came into my mind, and I got inspired. The character of Louise’s dog Vince is based on my mother’s lhasa apso Charlie. Apart from that, and many of the locations mentioned, the rest of the story is pure fiction.

What is the message you’d like readers to take away from The Serenity Stone Murder story?Cover
I’m not sure there is a message. It’s about middle-aged church ladies, laughter, and the crazy things we get dragged into for our friends.

Besides living there, why did you pick Thunder Bay as the setting for Serenity Stone?
Thunder Bay is Canada’s best-kept secret! It has all the amenities of a big city with the conveniences of a small town. We have a world-class symphony, numerous theatre companies, fine restaurants, a university doing cutting edge DNA research, a state-of-the-art Health Sciences Centre with some of the best cancer care in the country, a College with an internationally successful film program, and a Law School. All this, right in the middle of spectacular natural scenery and countless freshwater lakes. I thought it was time we started making the rest of the country aware of what a jewel we have.

Your bio on Amazon says there are three of your poems “in permanent installation at Prince Arthur’s Landing.” Tell us a bit about the poems and the story of them being inducted there.
Several years ago, the city decided to develop our beautiful, but mostly underutilized waterfront on Lake Superior. They hired an architectural firm known for their work with city waterfront locations, which resulted in a breathtaking stretch of harbourfront with a huge concert area, a Tai Chi Park, an arts building, a skateboard park, a Spirit Garden for aboriginal events, a sailing marina, restaurant and condominiums. The plan was to include a showcase for the arts, so the call went out across the country to artists to submit their proposals to a jury for selection. At the same time, writers were invited to submit poems and short readings for blind judging. As it turned out, three of my poems were selected, which was quite a surprise and a thrill for me. The poems have been sandblasted onto granite benches placed at different locations throughout the park. This fall I got an email from a runner in Florida, who had been here participating in a marathon. She noticed one of my poems on a bench, and liked it so much, she googled me to tell me she was going to share it with her fellow runners at home. That was quite a delightful surprise.

If you had to choose, which author would you consider a mentor and why?
I’m not sure I can narrow it down to one.  C.S.Lewis shaped much of my thinking in my teens. He has a disarmingly simple style of writing that is the hallmark of brilliance. Jesus taught that way, too—telling simple stories that packed a huge punch. I admire the great writers who can say a lot in a few words. I think that has influenced my own writing style, which tends toward economy of words. I can’t promise brilliance, though!

What were the challenges you faced in bringing each of your books to life?
With The Serenity Stone Murder battling my own doubts about my ability to sustain a credible and entertaining novel-length story was my biggest challenge. I wrestled with the “editor on my shoulder” constantly telling me that I couldn’t pull it off.  But I persisted and proved her wrong. The other two books came more easily to me. The poems in Here, on the Ground, were collected over a period of many years. Many had been previously published in literary journals, and some had won poetry competitions. That gave me the confidence to believe in the collection. It was just a question of selecting the best ones. Great-Grandma’s Gifts was originally a Mother’s Day gift for my Mom. On a whim, I showed it to Stacey Voss, publisher at Split Tree Publishing. She fell in love with it and asked if she could publish it. She didn’t have to twist my arm too hard! I’m finding it resonating with a lot of people, which would have made my mother very proud.

GGG-CoverTell us a little about the artwork in Great-Grandma’s Gifts and the cover art for Serenity Stone.  Who designed it? Why did you go with those particular images?
When I came up with the idea of writing Great-Grandma’s Gifts, I asked my sister, who is a watercolour artist, if she would do the illustrations. She captured the gentle, childlike feel of the story perfectly. Some of the illustrations are from her imagination, but some are actual dolls and toys Mom made that our daughters still have. Toward the end of the book, she has painted Mom’s apartment, with her Bible on the table and her artwork on the walls. On the last page she depicts Mom as we often saw her, sitting on the dock at her cottage, gazing across the lake. With Serenity Stone, much of the story concerns a church garden that the neighbouring casino wants to purchase for parking space. The publisher and I agreed that we wanted to emphasize the “cozy” nature of the mystery. This is not a graphic or violent murder mystery, but a gentler, humorous one appealing to women. Tracy Barr’s lovely picture of the entrance to the garden was a perfect fit.

What can we expect from you in the future? This spring Split Tree will be launching a sequel to Great-Grandma’s Gifts. It is called Where is Peachy Keen?
Currently I am ghostwriting a memoir about a woman who survived horrific abuse, a murder attempt, 50 suicide attempts, and life on the streets. She is now happily married, the mother of two, and a frequent speaker on mental health issues. She has been a guest on 100 Huntley Street, and won the 2007 Courage to Come Back award from the Canadian Mental Health Association. When that is done, I want to resume work on a literary novel  I’ve started and a sequel to Serenity Stone.  I also plan to keep writing children’s stories for my granddaughters, and another collection of poems.

How can readers discover more about you and your work?
Website: https://www.mariannejones.ca
Blog: https://www.mariannejones.ca
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MarianneJonesAuthor
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/MarianneJones@Mariann36863659
Lnkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/mariannejones

11 December 2014 ~ 0 Comments

Author Interview – Mary-Lou Stephens

Mary-Lou outsideRadio personality, Huffington Post blogger and author Mary-Lou Stephens has released the sequel to her highly praised memoir Sex, Drugs and Meditation.
How To Stay Married is the story of a marriage; a journey from fear, resentment and financial devastation, to a place of love, joy and trust.
Mary-Lou Stephen’s first book Sex, Drugs and Meditation chronicled how meditation changed her life, saved her job and helped her find a husband. How To Stay Married, is the truth behind the happy ending.
How to Stay Married takes us around the world; from the glitter and glare of Las Vegas to the sub-zero temperatures of the French Alps and the tropical heat of Thailand, all with cabin luggage only.
The discoveries Mary-Lou makes regarding herself and her marriage are a modern day parable about learning to travel light in life, love and relationships.
Let’s find out what makes Mary-Lou Stephens tick. Mary-Lou what made you decide to become a published author?
I never thought I’d be an author. I wrote songs for years when I used to play in bands. I didn’t think about writing prose until about 12 years ago when I went on an overseas holiday and came back with a few out of focus photos taken on a disposable camera. A friend said “Clearly photography’s not your thing. Why don’t you write about your holiday instead?” So I did and I’ve been writing ever since.
I wrote  newspaper columns and short stories but never anything longer. I saved up my money and took six moths leave without pay. I wanted to find out whether I could write an entire book and then having done so if I ever wanted to do it again. The answer to both questions was yes.
When I read self-help books I turn straight to the case studies, the stories. I think human beings are hard-wired for stories, we love them. When I realised my life read like one of those case studies I wondered if other people would be interested in my story. The answer again was yes. My first published book Sex, Drugs and Meditation was published by Pan Macmillan last year. How To Stay Married is the sequel.
marriage10.6Would you consider your latest book, How To Stay Married, to be a one of a kind?  How so?
How To Stay Married, is a brave and personal book. It touches on areas in a relationship that not many people have the courage to expose. My husband has been my biggest supporter. He gave me permission to write anything I needed to, even though some of it was very tough on him. I’ve been toughest on myself though, often not painting myself in a very good light, but that’s what being honest is about.
What do you believe a writer should not do as far as getting his or her book published?
Never send first draft material to anyone. I did and it was a big mistake. I had some interest early of for my first book Sex, Drugs and Meditation. A literary agent got hold of the first chapter and asked to see everything I’d written. I was naive and did just that. Big mistake and I blew my chance to be signed to a major literary agency. She did give me some great feedback though and many years later I finally finished the book and landed a publishing deal with a major publisher. As Stephen King says, “Write the first draft with the door closed and the second draft with the door open.”
Are you published by a traditional publisher or are you self-published?
My first book Sex, Drugs and Meditation was published by Pan Macmillan after I submitted it through their open submission process. I wanted to go with a major publisher because of possible legal issues in the book. I wanted a legal team to look at it before it was published. I had to make a few changes but not many. Luckily my work as a broadcaster has given me a fairly good working knowledge of the laws around defamation.
I’m self publishing How To Stay Married  because the only person who could sue me over this book is my husband and he’s promised not to :)
What message are you trying to get across with your book How To Stay Married?
How to Stay Married is about creating the kind of relationship you want. Isn’t that what we all seek? A place where we belong. Arms in which we feel safe. Home. My wish for my readers and the ones they love is for happy trails and many adventures along the way.
While How to Stay Married isn’t your regular ‘how-to’ book, there is a list of Seven Tips For a Happy Marriage (and one from my mum) at the end. You can receive a free copy of these tips by signing up for my newsletter. By the time you’ve read the book you will have seen how these tips have played out in my own relationship. But really it’s the tip from my mum that sums it up best:

On her deathbed my mother gave our marriage her blessing. “Remember darling,” she said. “Love is a decision. Every day you make the decision to love the person you’re with. Keep making that decision every day and you’ll have a long and happy marriage, even when it’s not all that happy.”

 

What’s next for you?
I’m writing another novel. This one will actually get published. I’m doing a writing masterclass early next year and the tutor has promised she’ll land me a publishing deal – she knows my writing and that I’ll write a marketable book.
I also have a series of non-fiction books planned which I will self publish. I want  the freedom around these books to do what I want with them as far as pricing and bundling is concerned.
Thank you for this interview, Mary-Lou.  Where we can find you on the web? 
Book trailer for How To Stay Married  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obR1s3bNnJ8

07 November 2014 ~ 3 Comments

How to Bake the Perfect Pecan Pie – Blog Tour 2014

Guest Blogger: Gina Henning 

Pecan Pie BLOG TOUR2

The How to Bake the Perfect Pecan Pie Blog Tour runs from November 7th until November 18th, each day of the tour a different character will share their favorite recipe for Thanksgiving. Stop by and see what’s cooking in the Hauser kitchen and be sure and enter the giveaway for a $50 Williams-Sonoma Gift Card, just in time for Thanksgiving!

How to Bake The Perfect Pecan Pie
 

Aurora Hauser’s Favorite Thanksgiving Recipe

The back office at the Hauser home has been converted into a mini-video recording studio for each member of the Hauser family along with two special guests to share one of their favorite Thanksgiving recipes other than the pecan pie.

Hauser Family File: Aurora Hauser is married to Luke Hauser and the mother of Winter and River and the sister-in-law to Lauren Hauser. Aurora has been exhibiting signs of being pregnant, but has yet to share with the family despite the movements from her belly region.

“Roll the tape.”

Aurora waddles into the room and bows. Her auburn buns wiggle on top of her head. She shuffles her ballet slippers over to the leather couch and plops down into a lotus yoga pose. Her eyes close and she takes in a several deep breaths. Aurora snaps her eyes open and rolls her shoulders and cocks her neck from side to side.

“So I know Lauren has her pecan pie which is what ends the meal so I thought I would share my recipe for something prior to the meal. Pecans are my favorite nut. I like their shape and texture. I feel like they’re really an image of wholesome empowerment.” Aurora takes in a deep breath and closes her eyes.  She bobs her head up and down and pops her eyes open. “I’ve created a recipe with spices.” Aurora waves a white notecard in her hand. Her soda cap bracelet jingles along her arm.

“Spices are essential in every house. Not only do I cook with them, but I also use them for medicinal purposes.” She rubs her lips together and nods her head. “This is my Spiced Pecan recipe to keep you healthy, mind, body, and soul for the entire holiday season. Namaste.” She closes her eyes and bows her head.

 

Aurora’s Spiced Pecans

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin                            2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon                     1 tablespoon zested orange peel

½ tablespoon orange juice                              1 pound pecan halves

4 tablespoons unsalted butter                        1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar      2 tablespoons water          1 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

Rip a piece of parchment paper and lay it on down in a sheet pan.

Mix the salt, cumin, cayenne, cinnamon and orange peel together in a small bowl and set aside. Toss the pecans in a 10-inch cast iron skillet (or regular skillet will work) and set over medium heat. Stir it up for 4 to 5 minutes until they just start to brown and smell toasted. Add the butter and watch it melt. Add the spice mixture and stir to combine. Once combined, pour both sugars in the pan, orange juice, and water, stirring until the mixture thickens and coats the nuts, approximately 2 to 3 minutes.

Transfer the nuts to the prepared sheet pan and separate them with a fork or spatula. Allow the pecans to cool completely before transferring to an airtight container. Can be stored up to 3 weeks.

*Don’t miss the Hauser family Thanksgiving, available now from all these fine eBook Retailers:

Amazon US Amazon UK   Nook US   Nook GB    Google Play   Kobo

Enter the giveaway for a
$50 Williams-Sonoma Gift Card!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Be sure to stop by these blogs for sneak peeks and secrets from the Hauser Family!

7th November – Candy’s Raves http://www.candysraves.com

8th November – Avid Book Hoarder http://avidbookcollector.blogspot.com/

9th November – Krysten Lindsay http://www.krystenlindsay.com/

10th November – Aurelia Bowl http://www.aureliabrowl.com/

11th November – Rosie Amber http://rosieamber.wordpress.com/

12th November – Holly Martin http://hollymartinwriter.wordpress.com/

13th November – Karen Aldous http://www.karenaldous.com

14th November – Rebecca Raisin http://rebeccaraisin.wordpress.com/

15th November – eBook Review Gal http://www.ebookreviewgal.com

16th November – Mika Jolie http://mikajolie.com/

17th November – Katie Oliverhttp://www.katieoliver.com/ko/blog

18th November – Gina Henning http://www.ginahenning.com/blog

28 October 2014 ~ 0 Comments

Nerf Rebelle Messenger Blaster

Nerf Rebelle Messenger BlasterThis is a really cool idea, but… I’m not sure that it was needed, really. Don’t get me wrong, it’s cute. You can write messages on the bullets and shoot them at someone that can read them, if they have the secret reader part. I mean, I could see kids using it to send secret messages across the backyard to their neighbors, but it’s a novelty that quickly wears off. The gun itself is nice enough, but for the price, my girl would rather have a “real” Nerf gun, not the girly one. She liked it, she played with it and the messages a few times, but abandoned it pretty quickly for her gun with a clip so she could do some real damage. In an epic family nerf gun war, this wouldn’t stand up.

Recommended for girly girls that want it to play with more than participate in nerf wars with friends.

Description:
Nerf Rebelle Messenger

When the mission calls for secrets to be sent and shared, you show your spy style with Nerf Rebelle Secrets and Spies blasters and bows from the Nerf Rebelle brand. Messages fly back and forth between you and your team, hidden in plain sight on Message Arrows. Red reveals what the designs conceal; arm your friend with the decoder so she can discover your secret messages. It’s Time to Step Up and Stand Out!

Write and Send Messages

Send your messages with style and still keep your secrets hidden from view with the Nerf Rebelle Messenger blaster from Hasbro. Use the special pen to write spy secrets on the Message Darts. The messages can only be seen when you look at your secrets stay concealed. Once you’ve written your messages on the darts, load the darts into the barrel, pull the handle back to prepare the blaster to fire, then pull the trigger to send the darts flying through the air!

Mystery, Action, and Adventure

The Nerf Rebelle Secrets and Spies Messenger blaster combines the excitement of spy missions with sports action fun for girls who love mystery, action and adventure. Write and send secret messages, and reveal them with your spy decoders. When only your closest allies need to know the plan, you hide the details in plain sight with the Messenger blaster. Even the biggest secrets are safe with a messenger like you!

Reveal Secret Messages

The Nerf Rebelle Secrets & Spies Messenger has a built-in decoder on the blaster, so you can read secret messages. The blaster also comes with a separate decoder that you can give to a friend, so she can read the secret messages you write and send to her. Slip the Message Darts into the decoders, and the messages appear! Spies send and receive lots of messages during their missions, so you can reuse the Message Darts to keep the secrets flying. Use a damp cloth from home to erase the messages on the Message Darts, and now you’re ready to scribble some more secrets and shoot them to a fellow spy. The pen stores in the handle of the blaster so it is always nearby when you need it.

Includes

Blaster, 5 Message Darts, double decoder, and instructions.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

23 October 2014 ~ 0 Comments

VTech Grow – Along Music Center

VTech Grow Along Music Center We borrowed a baby and a toddler to check this one out and he gave it a thumb and a half up. It’s VERY sturdy and for a baby that’s just learning to pull himself up, he didn’t fall over once because of it. The two had a great time, the big bright buttons draw their attention and the music gives them something to “baby dance” to. I found the microphone annoying. It doesn’t do a great job with voice changing and once my husband got ahold of it, I really really hated it. It’s a bit loud and distorted and really… just not good quality. The rest of it is fabulous though. Adjustable heights so varied that it can be used by a sitting or standing child. And hey, who doesn’t like jamming out to Let It Go?

Recommended for busy babies and toddlers. And those parents who need 15 minutes of peace to get a long overdue shower.

Description

Sing and learn with the Grow-Along Music Center by VTech. Pretend to be a musician and sing along with the music. Sing into the microphone and watch as the five colorful lights on the piano correspond to your child’s voice, or play with wacky voice-changing and amplifying effects. Rock out with three instrument buttons that play guitar, drum and saxophone sounds. Five animal piano keys introduce your child to instruments, colors and animals. Choose between Learn & Play mode and Sing-Along mode and become a learning super star!

Top Features

      • Voice-changing microphone with 4 fun effects
      • 75+ songs, melodies, sounds and phrases
      • 5 light-up keys flash along with your child’s voice
      • Adjustable height stand for sitting and standing play
      • Learning and music modes provide two ways to play
      • Play guitar, drum and saxophone sounds
      • Teaches imitative play, instruments, animals and colors

Developmental Benefits

Language Development and Imaginative Play
      • Introduces age-appropriate vocabulary with fun phrases.
      • Popular melodies and songs enhance vocal exploration.
      • Musician role-play elements promote imaginative play.
      • Real microphone lets your child pretend to perform.
Discovery and Exploration
      • Voice-changing and amplifying effects inspire curiosity.
      • Light-up keys encourage exploration.
Cause and Effect
      • Five colorful lights correspond to your child’s voice.
      • Pressing piano keys plays fun sounds and phrases.

Rating: ★★★★☆

06 October 2014 ~ 0 Comments

Sterling Silver Created Ruby and Created White Sapphire Heart Dancing Pendant Necklace, 18″

Wow! I must admit that I was very leery of getting jewelry from Amazon. I usually want to see it in person. I’m super picky about what I wear. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I figured I’d give it a go. I love small pieces like this. The length is absolutely perfect on me. It really is just a wonderful little piece. I love the “dancing” in the middle too. It makes it a little more interesting.

The chain is actually thinner that I thought, which ended up being a good thing. It looks really good with the pendant. I’ve found that if the chain is too thin or too thick, it makes the whole thing look odd. But this really is a perfectly put together piece. I know I’ll be wearing this both casually and when I need just a little color to off set something more formal.

I wore this yesterday with jeans and a shirt and last night with a black cocktail dress. Both were the perfect match. I love that it’s versatile like that. My favorite was the black dress though. The splash of red just really brought my entire outfit together. The movement from the middle stone is a great conversation starter too!

Recommended for the jewelry lover in your life. This would be equally great for your wife, girlfriend or daughter.

Description:
The Amazon Curated Collection
Discover the Amazon Curated Collection of fine and fashion jewelry. The expansive selection of high-quality jewelry featured in the Amazon Curated Collection offers everyday values that range from precious gemstone and diamond pieces to the latest fashion designs.

This hand-selected assortment features an array of diamond, gemstone and precious metal designs that receive a quality inspection, including from Amazon’s staff graduate gemologist, to ensure they meet Amazon’s high standards. All diamonds featured in the Amazon Curated Collection are certified by our suppliers to be conflict free, and IGI, GIA, or AGS certifications are provided on white diamonds of .75 carats or larger on all stud earrings, rings, and pendant necklaces.

Pieces from the Amazon Curated Collection come packaged in a custom box, making them wonderful gifts. In addition, we offer free one-day shipping within the continental US on items over $500. International shipping options for friends and family overseas are available for an additional fee.

The Amazon Curated Collection offers a specialized customer service team that is available seven days a week to answer any product questions before, during or after the purchase. If you’re not satisfied for any reason, you will receive a full refund and free return shipping within the US if you return your purchase within 30 days.

Find a special gift for a loved one or a beautiful piece that complements your personal style with jewelry from the Amazon Curated Collection.

Gemstones

Color

Jewelers describe the color of a gemstone in terms of three characteristics: hue, saturation, and tone. A gemstone’s basic color is its hue, and those with purer hues (for emeralds, green; for sapphires, blue; and for rubies, red) are generally considered more valuable. Often, however, a hint of another color can be detected. Saturation is a measure of the intensity or purity of a gem’s hue and is determined by the degree to which gray or brown hues mute its defining color. Value tends to increase with saturation, so a fully saturated purplish blue sapphire may well be more expensive than a muted pure blue one. The tone of a gemstone, a measurement of its lightness or darkness, is usually given as light, medium-light, medium, medium-dark, or dark.

Clarity

A flawless gemstone is rare and expensive. As with diamonds, most gemstones have inclusions, or tiny mineral flaws, that can be seen under magnification or by the careful eye. Make sure that any inclusions in the stone do not penetrate deeply into the gem, as this may cause it to break or crack. Clarity grades range from VVS (very, very slightly included) to I3, in which inclusions are prominent and severely affect the gemstone’s beauty.

Cut

A gemstone’s cut refers to its proportions and symmetry. In making a gemstone look appealing–the stone should be symmetrical in all dimensions so that it will appear balanced, and that its facets will reflect light evenly. Color should also be taken into account when cutting for optical efficiency. If a stone’s color is highly saturated, a shallow cut will allow it to pass more light, while a deeper cut may increase the vividness of a less saturated gem. There is no generally accepted grading system for gemstone cut.

Size

Though a gemstone’s weight is usually given in carats, this may not give an accurate idea of its size, because different types of stone have different densities. Therefore, a one-carat sapphire or ruby will be smaller than a one-carat emerald, though they have the same weight, because sapphires and rubies (both a form of the mineral corundum) are more dense than emeralds.

Gemstones can also be measured in dimensions (diameter, length, and width). It is important to know the dimensions to ensure that the gemstone weight will be visible and well-proportioned in the setting.

Gemstone Treatment

Gemstones are often treated to enhance color and fill cracks. Please note: if a gemstone has been treated, this information will be provided in the specifications on the stone’s product detail page.

There are various accepted techniques, depending on the type of stone:

Oils and resins are frequently used to fill surface-reaching fissures in emeralds and rubies. This process is not permanent; however, if a treated ruby or emerald is subjected to high heat, the filler may leak out of the stone.

Sapphires and rubies are often heated in a kiln or furnace to enhance their color. Such heat treatment, which is considered permanent, has been used for centuries.

Lightly colored sapphires may also undergo diffusion treatment. This is done by heating a stone in the presence of coloring elements such as titanium or iron, which causes a thin layer of color to be diffused into the stone’s surface. Because this color layer is so thin, a diffusion-treated sapphire should not be re-polished.

Gemstone Care

To clean gemstone jewelry, first wipe it with a soft cloth to remove any dirt. Emeralds require only the use of a soft cloth, as cleaners may damage these soft gems. Sapphires and rubies can be cleaned with either an ultrasonic cleaner or a solution of one part ammonia to six parts water, with a soft brush. Store your gemstone jewelry in a soft cloth pouch or jewelry case so it does not touch other pieces in your collection. As with all jewelry, normal wear and tear can loosen prongs and settings, so it is a good idea to have it checked by a professional jeweler who can make repairs as needed.

Rating: ★★★★★