Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Join Janathon 2014

Janathon participant logo


Welcome to Janathon 2014!! 

What's a Janathon you ask?   Well, I just found out about it and it's basically a challenge to run or do some sort of exercise every day for the month of January, and then blog about it.  What a great incentive to get up off my butt and work towards that first 5K in the spring.

Want to challenge yourself too?  Go to the official Janathon 2014 page and sign up.  It's free!!   Add the name of your blog and then join the participants list.  I've set up a separate TAB at the top of my blog for my daily Janathon posts, so all my daily results will be posted there and on the Janathon FB page.   You can join in the challenge even if you don't have a blog, so don't be shy.

Come on - challenge yourself for 2014!

Monday, December 30, 2013

A Year in Review 2013

I thought it would be fun to go back and see what my top posts for the year were.  A lot of the blogs that I read are doing this and it's interesting to see what the popular trends are.  So here's my list, beginning with the most popular:


1)  Product Review - e Salon   



2)  Tye Dye With Acrylic Paints    



3)  Book Review - Impressionists on the Water    


4)  Book Review - Vegetarian Everyday   


5)  Book Review - The Sanibel Captiva Handbook     


6)  Book Review - The Happy Home   



7)  Prayers for Mom's Surgery    

8)  Getting the Old Folks Out                



9)  My Special Smoothies    


10)  Guest Post - Learning to Run      




I'd like to thank Rizzoli Publishing for affording me the opportunity to review so many wonderful books this year.  Thanks to my guest posters and most of all, thank you to everyone who stops by and leaves comments.  I've made so many wonderful friends through blogging and it's been great getting to know each and every one of you.    Happy New Year!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year


I'm taking a little blogging break until after the New Year.  I want to wish all of you a blessed Christmas and a happy and safe New Year.  Hug the ones you love and enjoy the season.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Author Interview - Jessia Dotta

Today I'm pleased to share an interview with Born of Persuasion author, Jessica Dotta.


If you missed my book review on Wednesday, go back and read it here.


Grab a cup of coffee and settle in.  I hope you enjoy my chat with Jessica....

What do you think is the most interesting element about the plot?
Thanks so much for interviewing me! I really appreciate it, Kim!
I've heard quite a bit of feedback regarding the plot and most people are happy with its the gothic overtones and the story twists.
As for myself, I like that the plot is spring-loaded. There's one story happening, but when the novel is finished, a reader can look back and see the fuller picture of the plot. Then as a whole, when the entire series is finished, a reader can look back over the books and see the whole picture again.

Are your characters based on any real people and which character developed first? Also, I think most writers put some aspect or trait of themselves into a character. Which character's trait is modeled after you?
Threads of my personal history and scraps of my personality are definitely woven into the characters. And at the same time, much like I believe Jane Austen did, I also throw personalities that I've encountered or find humorous onto the page.
Julia is the protagonist, and the story is told from her point of view, so I started with her. Through her, I've explored the deep sense of loss I've experienced. Through Edward, Julia's childhood sweetheart, my unrelenting sense of conviction, and lastly through Isaac (who is prominent in book two and three) my longing to see past hurts set aright.
You mentioned that writing this book was many years in the making.  What were your biggest obstacles in finishing it?
This question made me laugh, because I finished book about twelve times and have many versions of this story. Deepening my craft as a writer sent me back to the drawing board more than once, as did figuring out which market best suited the series. I heighted certain parts of the novel, depending upon which market or agent I pitched.
The publishing wall is very difficult to scale. The odds of a manuscript being traditionally published are estimated to be about 1%-2%. I say all this to say that breaking into the market was the most difficult part of the journey. 
Born of Persuasion is the first book in a trilogy.  Did you originally envision your story as a trilogy?
When I finally started writing, it was only to share the story that had been brewing in my mind since my teens. I ended up with a 400K word story (1000 pages). And I still hadn't written the ending.
So I divided the material into two books and worked to bring one down to a 100-130K words (300-400 pages.)
This is your first published novel.  Did you do any type of writing before you wrote Born of Persuasion? 

Nothing that I published. I wrote short stories in high school. Later, during my pursuit of publication, I've written press releases, blog articles and essays.
You also hold a day job – what is your profession?
Right now, I spend my days working on finishing book three, The Price of Privilege, while balancing the demands of being a single-working mom. To maintain the amount of time I need to write, I work as a caregiver to the elderly at night, and occasionally pick up an editing or PR job, when time allows.
Tell us a little about your writing process.  Where do you like to write – at a desk or on the sofa?  Do you use a laptop or write long hand?  Do you prefer to write during the day or late evening?
I was given an amazing executive desk when a dear friend moved out of state. It is my best writing spot. Thankfully, I learned touch-typing, so I write on my laptop and lately I've been using Scrivener software. It's absolutely fabulous!
When I started writing, I would write late into the evening. I switched to 4 a.m. at one point, but I had no idea what I was doing to myself. The muse now thrilled to show up at that hour . . . while the rest of me isn't.
Have you visited England and if so, what is your favorite area?
Visiting England is high on my bucket list! I want to tour London and Gloucestershire, the shire where my book opens.
Did you read a lot as a child?
Yes, once I got started. I was a slow beginner, thankfully worrying my second teacher. She took extra time to ensure my reading level improved. After that, you couldn’t find me without a book in hand.
When you were in school did you enjoy British history?
I had to pause and think about this . . . as I can't remember learning much British history in school unless it touched upon American history, such as the Revolutionary War. I did, however, fall in love with British authors and their style of writing. Because I've primarily chosen British writers to read, I feel a great affinity for the U.K.  
You favor British Literature.  What’s your all-time favorite book and who are your favorite authors?
I LOVE British Literature! My all time favorite book is Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. If you haven't read it, I'm so envious! The best reading experience is yet to come!
 I'm also a huge fan of Victoria Holt, Margaret Henry (The Autobiography of Henry VIII: With Notes by His Fool, Will Somers), Susanna Clarke (Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell,) the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen. I have not read much of Charles Dickens yet, but he's on my to-read list.  
What do you like to do for fun?
When I have free time, I adore cooking, gardening, and thrifting. I've been paying attention to the trend of Urban Homesteading and at some point hope to have my own chickens. Reading is a high pleasure. My daughter and I often play Wii or I teach her to cook.
What’s your favorite indulgent food? 
That changes! The more organic I go, the less indulgent foods I find to eat. I just found a company called NatureBox, and love their snacks. Frozen cherries and blueberries also top the list.
Everyone asks “What’s the best piece of advice you would give to aspiring writers?”  So instead, I’m going to ask you what is the one thing a writer should not do?
Great angle! It's easier to write a safe character than one that is transparent or unique. It's always a temptation to chop off any characterization that isn't particularly flattering. My advice is not to. Books that are different and have different characters tend to become bestsellers.
When can we expect to see the second novel Mark of Distinction released and can you give us a tidbit on what to expect?
The Price of Privilege trilogy is set in Victorian, England and is narrated by the protagonist, Julia Elliston, who after a lifetime of silence is finally setting the record straight about the scandal that shocked England during her teens.
In Mark of Distinction we find Julia hiding among the elite of London, doing her best to keep out of reach of a man she considers dangerous. Matters escalate quickly when her new identity becomes a newspaper sensation, sweeping her into a life that heightens her danger.
 
 

Thanks Jessica.  How am I going to wait until the second book is out???
Thank you!!!
Please take time to visit Jessica's FB page and her website.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Book Review - Born of Persuasion



When I was approached by Jessica Dotta and asked to review her debut novel, Born of Persuasion, I will be the first to admit that I hesitated.  Categorized as both gothic and Victorian in nature, I gave pause for 2 reasons.  First, I didn't think I'd care for gothic literature.  Second, Victorian era meant British and I've never read any British literature either.  Did I really want to spend my time reading a book that was so far outside of my usual genre's?  I could not have been more wrong!  Let me repeat that - I could not have been more wrong and I was captivated from the beginning.

Born of Persuasion is the first book in a trilogy.  The paperback edition of book one is 448 pages of pure bliss.  Chapter one starts out with a bang and almost every page thereafter drips with mystery, intrigue, drunken rages, violence, love, suicide and deception.  Jessica spins a tale of thickly interwoven plots and deftly drops nuggets of information like bread crumbs along a forest path.  Just when you think you've figured out what is going on, she spins on her heel and take you off into another direction.   It's a wild ride.

From the book jacket :  The year is 1838, and seventeen-year-old Julia Elliston’s position has never been more fragile. Orphaned and unmarried in a time when women are legal property of their fathers, husbands, and guardians, she finds herself at the mercy of an anonymous guardian who plans to establish her as a servant in far-off Scotland.

With two months to devise a better plan, Julia’s first choice to marry her childhood sweetheart is denied. But when a titled dowager offers to introduce Julia into society, a realm of possibilities opens. However, treachery and deception are as much a part of Victorian society as titles and decorum, and Julia quickly discovers her present is deeply entangled with her mother’s mysterious past. Before she knows what’s happening, Julia finds herself a pawn in a deadly game between two of the country’s most powerful men. With no laws to protect her, she must unravel the secrets on her own. But sometimes truth is elusive and knowledge is deadly.


Jessica's characters are well rounded and crafted with interesting backgrounds.  Your mind will reel as you try to figure out how the players are connected.  But Jessica shines in her narrative.  She has a way with words that beautifully describes a scene and puts you in the center of the action.  You will sense the coldness of the dark estate corridors, hear the electricity crackle between Mr. Macy and Lady Foxmore as they pursue their self interests at the expense of others, and wonder if Julia will succumb to seductive advances as she tries to piece together the unexpected puzzle that is her life.

Born of Persuasion is easily one of the best fictional books that I've had the pleasure of reading in a long time.  I couldn't put it down because I couldn't wait to see what would happen next.   I had several ah-ha moments and times where I actually thought to myself "Wow, I didn't see that coming!" or "Oh, that was excellent!"   I think that I'm usually pretty good at figuring out who did what, but this book kept me on my toes and on more than one occasion I found myself frantically flipping back to double check something as I tried to piece it out.  Book two in the trilogy, Mark of Distinction, doesn't come out for several months.  I don't know how I am going to wait!

Born of Persuasion is available on Amazon.  I don't think you necessarily need to be a fan of "British or Gothic" literature to appreciate this book.  Jessica spins an intricate web of murder, mystery, intrigue, secrets, hidden agendas - what's not to like?  The plot and characters are so good, and the themes of loss, conviction and faith intertwine like three cords in a braid.  Pick up the book and unravel the mystery.

Please come back on Friday and join me.  I have an interview with Born of Persuasion author Jessica Dotta all lined up.  She shares her thoughts about the book, her writing process and offers a little advice to aspiring writers.  See you then.

Please go visit Jessica Dotta's FB page and her website

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Homemade Turkey Pot Pie

After Thanksgiving we had quite a bit of turkey left over, so I thought I'd try my hand at making a turkey pot pie.  I've never made one before, have you?  I scoured the internet, pulled up a couple of recipes and adapted them for my own recipe.  This is what I came up with.


1 stick unsalted butter
3 cups chopped, cooked turkey
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3 cups turkey broth - I just boiled the legs and wings for an hour to make a broth
1 cup half and half
24 oz. frozen peas and carrots
1 small onion, chopped
2 large boiled potatoes, chopped into pieces
salt and pepper, to taste
1 refrigerated pastry crust - top and bottom pieces

Melt butter in a pot. Saute the onions, peas and carrots briefly in the butter and then stir in the flour and cook for two minutes.
Slowly add the broth and half and half
Add turkey and potatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Spray a casserole dish with Pam and lay out the bottom crust, pulling it up the sides of the dish.  I did not pre-bake the crust.
Pour your turkey mixture into the dish and cover with top pastry. Crimp around the edges and make 
several vents for steam to escape.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 - 35 minutes, or until pastry is cooked and golden.

Check it out....


You're welcome and enjoy!!


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Product Review - Covert Cameras

We recently had the opportunity to field test Covert Scouting Camera's while we were deer and turkey hunting.  We were already familiar with field cameras in general, but the really cool thing about the Covert Code Black camera is that it instantly sends the photo's or video's it takes directly to your email.  How cool is that?



We pre-programmed the cameras to send the photos directly to Lou's email.  Each camera was coded with a different number so we could easily tell which camera we were getting photo's from as the emails came in.  The emails usually came through to us within a minute of the photo being taken.



The camera's are super easy to set up.  We took them out to our deer property and set up 2 of them in different locations.  We set up one camera with 10 batteries and one with 4 batteries.  They worked equally as well, but the one with 10 batteries lasted longer before the batteries had to be replaced.  This is what the inside of the camera looked like as we were setting it up to grab the satellite signal...


Our deer property is in a very remote area where we don't always get good cell phone reception, so we decided to use the Code Black Booster Antenna. 

The New and much improved signal boosting antenna helps your  CODE BLACK get more consistent signal in traditionally low signal areas. Comes with an L bracket and 10ft cable so you can elevate the antenna to add even more signal!
 Frequency Range:
 860-960 MHz
 1710-1880 MHz
 Gain 7-10 dBi

The booster antenna is an extra accessory and we needed it at the deer property.  We initially tried one camera with the antenna and one without.  The camera without the antenna kept losing the signal, but once we attached the antenna, it worked just fine.  Back at the house, where signal reception is better, we didn't need the antennas at all and the cameras sent photos easily.  So I would say to determine your location and how good your cell phone reception is and then get an antenna if you're in a more remote area.  The antenna is well worth having.




So here's a couple of shots of the cameras set up in the field.  Can you see them?




By now I imagine you'd like to see what kind of photo's we were getting.  Let me tell you, Lou loved getting up in the morning, turning on his laptop and viewing what was going on out in our deer stands each night.  It's really fun to get emails all day long and see what is wandering in and out of camera range.  Kind of makes you wish you were out there instead of sitting at work, doesn't it?   :-) 

If you look at the bottom of the photo you'll see the date and time stamps, moon phase and temperature...



 We were really excited to see these turkeys on more than one occasion.....


The camera sends great pictures no matter what time of the day or night....



We moved the camera's around a few times and were surprised to see how much action was taking place along one of the trails....




Here is the Code Black camera product information direct from the Covert website:
 
Special Ops Code Black
 Model #2427
The Special Ops "Code Black" Camera will instantly send pictures to your phone or email account. The "CODE BLACK" is perfect for scouting, security, and surveillance of your properties.
NEW for 2013. It will have SMS abilities. Now you can send texts to your Code Black to Add/Delete phone numbers and email addresses. Change picture mode / video mode. aquire a picture, location and turn the MMS feature on and off!
 Technical Specs:
  •12MP Color CMOS = 3-5-8-12 MP photo resolutions
 •1.2 Second Trigger Speed with intervals set from 1sec to 60 min
 •Photo bursts 1-3 images (only sends 1st photo of multiple bursts)
 •Date/Time/Temp and Moon Phase stamp
 •Built in color viewer
 •60+ ft invisible infrared flash range
 •Takes either pictures or video
 •Adjustable video resolutions HI 640x480  LO 320X240
 •Password protection
•63ft Flash Range
 •Overwrite Selection ( if selected will overwrite oldest photo on SD card with newest photo after card is filled to capacity)
 •Operates on 4, 8 or 12 AA batteries.
 •Rated for up to a 32GB SD card.
 •MMS feature operates on GSM Network and requires an activated SIM card and text plan through a GSM Network provider. ( AT&T, Rogers (CA)
 •1 Year Warranty
Retails for $ 354.99
How about a few more pictures?
 



The Covert site is nicely set up with video's to show you exactly how to set up their cameras for use.  You can purchase all camera's and accessories directly from Covert.  With Christmas right around the corner, Covert cameras will make an excellent gift for the hunter in your life.   Imagine how great it will be to view your stands from the comfort of your own chair instead of running out to your property to grab the SD card and bring it home?  Another plus is that you won't constantly be trampling through your deer stands to get to your camera's anymore.
One more thing.  Covert camera's aren't strictly for hunting either.  They are excellent for surveillance around the home.  Imagine the peace of mind to have one set up at your home when you're out of town.  You can get pictures sent to your email almost immediately for any activity going on around your house.  I may take my Covert camera's and set them up around the lake house so I can see what is going on there in the summer when we aren't at the lake. 
If you want a basic trail camera, then Covert can supply you with several different varieties, depending on what type of feature you're looking for and what price range you're interested in.  But if you want the thrill of viewing your hunting property on your computer or phone, then the Code Black camera is an excellent choice. 

In order for the cameras to send the email, you do have to purchase a special SIM card and pay for a monthly text plan thru a GSM network.  We used AT&T.  They have several plans available and we picked the unlimited text plan for $ 20.00 per month, which gives us unlimited photos.  The nice thing about it is that you don't need a contract and can purchase it on a monthly basis.  So if you only want the cameras activated for certain months, it's easy to do so.  And even if you don't use the text plan, then the camera can still be set up in the field and take regular pictures on an SD card that you can retrieve and view at your leisure.
Go check out the Covert website and Like their FB page here.
 
I'd like to thank Covert Camera for giving me this opportunity to review the Code Black camera.  I did not receive payment for this review, nor did I agree to give a positive review. Aside from information supplied from the company website, the opinions are my own.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Cache Crazy Tuesday 12-3-13

One of the best things I've ever done was zip lining.  Join me over at Cache Crazy to see what we did.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Tool Chest Re-do

This week I have a tool chest re-do project to share with you.  The tool chest was left in the garage by the previous owners of our lake house.  Believe me when I tell you it looked like an old piece of crap laying in the corner.  We kept tossing tools in it and I never gave it a second thought until Chablis looked at it over the summer and said she thought she'd like to re-finish it.  Damn, why didn't I think of that first???  The only before picture I took was this.  The entire tool chest looked like this before she started on it....


Chablis removed an old hinged shelf from the interior, removed the hardware handles, filled in all the holes, and sanded the entire thing down....


Then she painted it with a couple of coats of blue paint...


She gave it a very light distressing and now the tool chest sits at the end of her bed and holds a blanket and some pillows....


She said one of these days she's going to stencil something on the lid.


I think she should stencil Mom on it and give it to her mother.  What do you think??


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Blurb Books - One of a Kind

Create Something One Of A Kind with Blurb

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People love getting really creative, one-of-a-kind books for Christmas. Books that elicit a “where did you find this?” response. As the leading indie- and self-publishing platform, Blurb has an entire online bookstore full of unique books by an incredible array of undiscovered, self-published authors, artists, and photographers. And while these books probably aren't in your recipient’s bookshelf, many of them should be. So, if you’re thinking of giving unique gifts this year, consider these titles. Each costs around $40 USD or less:

Cookie Cravings by Maria Lichty and Heidi LarsenWe all have cookie cravings. Popular food blogger Maria Lichter decided to put them into something deliciously original: A baking book featuring 30 recipes you won’t find anywhere else.


Dog by My Side by Adam SchnitzerThis charming collection of original, vintage photos shows us that as long as there have been cameras, we’ve wanted to photograph our canine best friends. As a special bonus, there’s a glossary of the early photographic methods used in the original images. 


Around the World with a Toy Camera by Giorgio GiussaniPerfect for the photography or graffiti-art fan on your list. This book is an explosion of gritty color that explores the wonders of street art and analog photography. 


Food Stories by Elena ScottA short, wonderfully illustrated collection of recipes (and food stories) that will inspire you to pick up the knife and spatula—or just pen and paper. 

Things I Love by Carol Nehls and Jessica RoseIllustrated and written many years apart by a mother and daughter, this sweet rhyming story told by a fox is pure joy for all ages.


Patent Pending by Jordan NatyshenChicken goggles, air-conditioned rocking chairs, monkey jockeys for greyhounds… humankind has invented and sought to patent some amazing and crazy things. Illustrator Jordan Natyshen illustrates some of the strangest in this history of odd inventions. 


Tiny Horses are Everywhere by Thea LuxThe perfect stocking-stuffer for fans of off-beat humor, this undeniably nutty book is based on a Tumblr blog and combines simple photo collages of small horses in human environments with incredibly funny captions.

Rouleaux by Anastassia EliasWhat can you do with an empty roll of toilet paper? If you’re French artist Anastassia Elias, you create tiny dioramas inside of the discarded tubes. Inspired by art and movies, these pieces are beautifully crafted, fun, and unbelievably detailed. 


Low Fidelity by Bobby GrossmanIf you, or someone you love, listened to New York punk and new wave in the 70s, chances are your favorite artist can be found in this book. Bobby Grossman photographed Iggy Pop, David Byrne, The Ramones, Debbie Harry, Andy Warhol and many more. This book is a time capsule of—and a love letter to—a legendary time, place, and sound.


Take a second and head over to Blurb to see if you can end your search for that perfect gift this season!  And don't forget - you can create your own books as well.  Check out my post on the book I made here.
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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving 2013


I'd like to wish all of you a blessed and Happy Thanksgiving.  Have a fun day, eat lots of good food, laugh and hug the ones you love!
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