Friday, December 29, 2017

2018 Cometh!

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So many of my friends are posting about how this is the last work day of 2017 for them. I love how some of them are posting how they're going to kick butt today and make it a great day at the office. For some, it isn't the last work day of the year but for all of us, it's the end of the year winding down in a hurry. As I look towards 2018, I wanted to take a few minutes and write down some goals for the coming year. I don't really do resolutions but 2017 was such a big year for us that I want to carry that momentum into the new year.

I have different goals for different areas of my world, so let's get started with a breakdown:

House:
1. Complete the downsizing and organizing of the downstairs.
2. Complete the downsizing and organizing of the landing.
3. Complete the downsizing, cleaning, and organizing of my bedroom.

Outside:
1. Clean and organize the barn.
2. Tidy up back deck.
3. Start preparing things for moving (packing up pots, etc)

Family:
1. Attend more things as a family.
2. Work towards both boys graduations.
3. Spend one on one time with both boys.

Writing:
1. Complete 2 full novels.
2. Set up a mailing list and have 1,000 subscribers.
3. Spend 1-2 hours each week learning things to help improve as an indie writer.

Personal:
1. Post on Welcoming Weight Loss at least 2x per month.
2. Work on plans for the "big move".
3. Be brave - this one isn't measurable but I know that there will be bad brain days and this goal is more about survival than about improvement.

So, there we go. I think all of these are attainable. I just need to find the focus that sometimes alludes me. I look at that writing goal list and I realize that I have a goal that I'm afraid to post. That tells me that it's a goal that's important to me and that's a good reason to get it added to the list. So...not so top secret writing goal #4: Make enough money from writing to replace the small amount of child support that I receive each month because it's going to be going away.

If you want to make your own goal list but don't know where to start, I want to recommend this great podcast/blog post done by Russell Nohelty. He doesn't know it, but he's kind of my hero when it comes to these things. Make sure you check out his site and his books.

Time for me to get to work!



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Book Review: David Bowie

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Dylan Jones's engrossing, magisterial biography of David Bowie is unlike any Bowie story ever written. Drawn from over 180 interviews with friends, rivals, lovers, and collaborators, some of whom have never before spoken about their relationship with Bowie, this oral history weaves a hypnotic spell as it unfolds the story of a remarkable rise to stardom and an unparalleled artistic path. Tracing Bowie's life from the English suburbs to London to New York to Los Angeles, Berlin, and beyond, its collective voices describe a man profoundly shaped by his relationship with his schizophrenic half-brother Terry; an intuitive artist who could absorb influences through intense relationships and yet drop people cold when they were no longer of use; and a social creature equally comfortable partying with John Lennon and dining with Frank Sinatra. By turns insightful and deliciously gossipy, DAVID BOWIE is as intimate a portrait as may ever be drawn. It sparks with admiration and grievances, lust and envy, as the speakers bring you into studios and bedrooms they shared with Bowie, and onto stages and film sets, opening corners of his mind and experience that transform our understanding of both artist and art. Including illuminating, never-before-seen material from Bowie himself, drawn from a series of Jones's interviews with him across two decades, DAVID BOWIE is an epic, unforgettable cocktail-party conversation about a man whose enigmatic shapeshifting and irrepressible creativity produced one of the most sprawling, fascinating lives of our time.

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I will never forget the reaction of friends when David Bowie died. He was mourned in such a way that I had never seen before. So, when this book became available, I requested it out of sheer curiosity. What was it about this man that people were so drawn to him? In this book, I learned just that in the stories told by those who knew him. Yes, at times, it felt as if I were in a room where people where gossiping and telling tales, but at the same time, I'm brought to memory every funeral dinner I have ever attended. That's just what we do. We tell the tales to keep the person close to you. If you're a long time Bowie fan or even just getting to know him, I recommend this book.






I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts, comments, and opinions are my own.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

2017 in Review

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2017 is almost gone. Can you believe it? I know that I can't. It seems like just last week we were watching the ball drop and then the boys and I went back to playing games for a while before I chased them off to bed. But, here we are and since it's been a pretty big year around here, I thought that it was the perfect time for a year in review post. Positive things only because I don't think it's healthy for any of us to dwell on the negatives...just take what you can from them and move on. It's all any of us can do and remain (mostly) sane.

So, how did we do? Read on to find out!

Roger -
This kid had a pretty huge year. Back in the Spring, he was chosen not only for the Thornapple Jazz Festival All Star band, but also for the District 10 MSBOA All Star Jazz band. As if that wasn't enough, as soon as school was out, he attended the Aquinas Jazz camp and followed it up by leaving for Dominica less than 36 hours later. We both want to say thank you to those who helped get him there. It was an expensive trip and he couldn't have done it without his sponsors. While there, he helped remove fishing line from the coral reefs, went scuba diving, and studied invasive species which included catching and measuring tiny lizards and all sorts of things. It was an amazing experience for him and he still talks about it!

Since he's been back, he hasn't exactly rested on his laurels. He now has a job working at the local movie theatre, is an officer in Business Professionals of America, and is an honor student. As if that wasn't enough, he was/is leadership in his high school band and helped out a lot with marching band. Jazz season is upon us now and he's lead tenor in the high school jazz band. Perhaps most exciting for this Fall was his auditioning and being chosen to play with the Kalamazoo Youth Jazz Orchestra. Needless to say, he's one busy kid and this mom is a tiny bit relieved that he'll have his driver's license soon.

Ben -

Not one to let his brother look busier than him, Ben dove into working with the high school varsity teams again this year. He started the year with his second year of managing the varsity boys basketball team. It wasn't the most stellar of seasons, but his work running the camera for all of their games was highly praised. As soon as basketball wrapped for the year, he jumped right into working with the baseball team. It was a lot of hiking to the field, but he made some really good friends who helped out with rides and really enjoyed being outside and wearing the "infamous" duck hat. You'll have to ask him about that...lol

Summer came and found Ben working out at the YMCA summer camp, helping out in their kitchens. He really enjoyed it and learned some great skills that he can continue to hone. Once school came around again, Ben started his senior year. Yep, this kid is graduating this year! He worked hard with the football team, joined the Key Club, and helps out wherever he can. On top of that, he got to attend two Michigan State football games to cheer on his Spartans. We're back in the swing of basketball season and if he's not behind the camera, he's at practice encouraging the guys to work hard and to rebound.

Katrina -
As for me, I'm tired just writing about everything my boys did this past year. I know that I probably missed a few things too! As Ben says, "in all my free time", I was blessed to work with Nick and we published not one, but two books. Nick is an amazing storyteller and I am truly honored that he invited me into a universe that he created and said, "Here, it's yours now. Have fun." I'm incredibly proud of The Tether : None Good and The Tether : Except One. 

While most of my time belongs to getting the boys where they need to be or attending their events, I have also written a supplemental "novella" to go alongside books 1 and 2. In fact, with any luck, I'll be sending it off to Nick tonight for him to check out and to give me feedback on. I have some ideas for it that I'm hoping our readers will really like.

Looking back at 2017, my year doesn't look nearly as impressive as my boys, but knowing that I'm a big part of their years makes it all worth it. I'm looking forward to another "action packed" year. There will be more sports, more jazz, and more books and I'm thankful that I get to share those moments with all of you.





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Monday, December 25, 2017

Crockpot Monday: Chicken Parmesan

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Merry Christmas, everyone! Our holidays are a bit "off" with the boys splitting their time between their dad's house and mine. With that being the case, we rarely do a "traditional" Christmas dinner. This year, I was thinking we might try this...

Chicken Parmesan:
Ingredients:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 beaten egg
sliced mozzarella cheese
1 (26-ounce bottle) favorite jarred marinara sauce

Directions:

Spread the 1 tablespoon of olive oil into the bottom of your crockpot. Whip the egg with a fork in a separate bowl. Mix the bread crumbs with the seasonings and the parmesan cheese in another dish. Dip the chicken into the egg, then into the bread crumb mixture, coating both sides with crumbs, cheese and seasonings. Place the chicken breast pieces in the bottom of the crock. Layer 2-3 slices of mozzarella cheese on top and then cover with entire jar of marinara sauce.

Close lid and cook on low for 6-7 hours or high for 3-4. Serve with your favorite pasta.





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Monday, December 18, 2017

Crockpot Monday: Chicken Cordon Bleu

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Brrrrr! I was not ready for the cold and the snow this year! I hope the weather is treating you well wherever you are. For us, not only is it cold, but it's also nearly Christmas break! Since the boys aren't here as often as I'd like, I like to make all of their favorites and a few of mine over the holiday break. Starting with this treat...

Chicken Cordon Bleu:
Ingredients:
4 chicken breast halves, pounded thin
4-8 slices of ham
4-8 slices of Swiss cheese
Can of your favorite cream-of-something soup *
2 Tablespoons low fat milk

Instead of soup, you could create your own with:

1 Tablespoon butter
3 Tablespoons flour
1/2 cup low-fat milk
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

Spray crockpot with cooking spray.

Pound chicken breasts flat (put them in a plastic zipper bag before you pound so chicken juice doesn't spray everywhere).

Put a slice of the ham and a slice of the swiss cheese on the chicken breast and roll it up. Put it into the crockpot, seam side down. If desired, top with another piece of ham and cheese. Continue with the other pieces.
If you are making your own "special soup," make a roux on the stovetop with the butter and flour, and whisk in the broth, milk, and spices. Pour on top of the chicken or open can of cream-of soup. Pour into crockpot. Put the 2T of low fat milk into your empty can and swirl it around to get the remaining soup. Pour that in, too.

Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 4-5.



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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Book Announcement: The Tether: Except One

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I know that things have been quiet around here, but today, I can finally reveal why that is! I've been hard at work on book 2 of The Tether Series! That gorgeous image to the left is our brand new book cover. Isn't it fantastic? Nick does such an amazing job on these.

I revealed the cover last week on Facebook and now I'm sharing it with all of you. There's more though! Nick, through some sort of magic, took our finished book and had it prepped for publication within 24 hours of me sending it to him. I swear he has powers that he doesn't tell people about.

Now, due to his insane skills (aka magic powers), I can tell you that the pre-order for the Kindle version is open now! On top of that, both the Kindle and print versions will be available and ready to go on December 6th! What does that mean to you? It means that if you order the Kindle version now, you'll be one of the very first people to get to read Except One! On top of that, it will be available for you to give as Christmas gifts! If you're anything like me, you love to receive books for Christmas. It gets cold here so I'm a huge fan of hot chocolate, a cozy blanket, and a new book to get lost in!

Both books 1 and 2 (None Good and Except One) will be available for the holiday season with another not quite yet revealed story coming soon after! Stay tuned for more information on that but don't wait to pre-order your Kindle version and then order the print version on December 6th!

Oooh...and before I forget, head on over to http://thecustodiet.com and join our mailing list! We'll be getting that up and running soon and I promise to use it only for good and not evil.

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Friday, November 3, 2017

Book Review: The Battle for Ameron

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The messenger's ghostly words tickled her ear and caused the shaking to cease. Mariella's eyes snapped open. The flame of fear was immediately snuffed out and replaced by something that burned even hotter-the spirit of power, tempered by love, directed by a sound mind. She lifted her chin and stared at the wall of churning blackness. It was then that the lightning struck. She basked in its power, for the lightning was hers. It is here in the depths of the mountain and the heights of the stars that the saga ends. One way or the other, it ends.

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This is it! The end of The Ameron Chronicles! I can't believe that it's already over! I read this entire series in less than two weeks and now I'm bummed that there wasn't the next book in the next series to pick up by these two authors.

What did I like? What didn't I like is probably a better question. Every time I had a moment I was picking up this book. I had to know what was going to happen to all of the characters that I had come to know and to love. Would the two couples end up together? Would they defeat the bad guy(s)? Would they save the kingdom of Ameron? Would the chosen reclaim their lands? What role does the baby from an earlier book have in the future of this kingdom?

So many questions and I'm happy to report that most of those were answered. If I have one complaint, it's that not all of my questions were answered. The authors had assured me that this was the complete tale but based on this final book and especially the epilogue, it's clear that there were intentions to either have another book or to launch another series. I sincerely hope that's the case because it's going to bother me for ages that I don't know some of these answers.

Just like my other reviews, I can't help but tell you to bug these authors. Get this series and then "harass" the authors into writing additional books because you're going to want to know the answers that I want to know. The easiest way I've seen to reach the authors is via their Facebook page. Don't hesitate to buy the entire series at once. Heck, the holidays are coming. If you know of a fantasy lover, this would be a great gift!


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Friday, October 27, 2017

Book Review: The Quest for Ameron

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Battling evil does not develop character, it reveals it! That is easy to say when evil is not in front of you, darker than night and as numerous as roaches in a slaughterhouse.

The Quest of Ameron is the fourth installment in the Ameron Chronicles series. It is an epic saga that brings you to the distant past and far future in the blink of an eye -- a till filled with swords, sorcery, and advanced science that will make you question what you thought you knew.

Rejoin Thomas, Hank, Mariella, and Thierry as they reveal their character through quests that will change them--and Ameron--forever.

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When I said that the action picked up in book 3, I wasn't joking. What I didn't realize is that it wouldn't slow down any in book 4. I want to say a billion wonderful things about this book, but the problem is that I read each of these books back to back to back, etc. They've all blended into one amazing tale.

I do recall one little thing that made me sigh and not in a good way though. At one place in the book the authors list a group of "evil men in history" and they listed a fairly recent president. My one and only thought was way too soon, history will tell what kind of person/president they were but when this book was written, it was far too soon to make that kind of judgment call. I truly believe in honesty in writing, even in fantasy, but putting your own political beliefs into a fantasy novel was a bit cringe worthy for me.

That being said, it was one sentence in a good sized narrative. It won't stop me from going back and re-reading this series by any means. If you haven't read started this series yet, what are you waiting for? Contact the authors via their Facebook page and insist that they sell you some books!



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Friday, October 20, 2017

Book Review: Alexander Hamilton

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A graphic novel biography of the American legend who inspired the hit Broadway musical Hamilton.

Alexander Hamilton was one of the most influential figures in United States history--he fought in the Revolutionary War, helped develop the Constitution, and as the first Secretary of the Treasury established landmark economic policy that we still use today. Cut down by a bullet from political rival Aaron Burr, Hamilton has since been immortalized alongside other Founding Fathers such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson--his likeness even appears on the ten-dollar bill. In this fully-illustrated and impeccably researched graphic novel-style history, author Jonathan Hennessey and comic book illustrator Justin Greenwood bring Alexander Hamilton's world to life, telling the story of this improbable hero who helped shape the United States of America.

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As some of you might know, I used to do quite a few comic book reviews. Sadly, I don't have as much time these days so I leave most of that to my staff over on Geek-o-Rama. Still, when I get the chance, I still reach out and grab it!

This book was the perfect for that kind of thing. It has three of my favorite things: comics, history, and a great "story".  Let's break this one down in one of my favorite ways: The Good, The Bad, and The Summary.

The Good:
This book is full of information! It may be a biography of Hamilton, but it also covers a lot of what was happening during that time, not just here but in other countries that would get involved. The dialogue included quotes from actual letters and pamphlets of that time period. That's some serious dedication to the project and I love to see that kind of effort put into a project.

The Bad:
While I generally enjoyed the art, it was sometimes tough to keep track of who was who. After all, there were a lot of white men wearing white wigs! The only other thing is that the language in this books makes it more suitable to an upper level high school student versus anyone younger.

The Summary:
All in all, if you like history, have an interest in Hamilton (the musical), love graphic novels, or a combination of any of the above, go ahead and check out this book. I think it's going to be a really good addition to my books on history shelf.






I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts, comments, and opinions are my own.
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Friday, October 13, 2017

Book Review: The King of Ameron

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It is said that whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head. These words are from the Ancient Texts so they must be true. The King of Ameron is a tale closer to truth than fiction of a land that has been given that warning. What happens to those who take heed...and to those who do not?

This continuation of the Ameron Chronicles sheds light on a land torn asunder by an evil within, that is no less dangerous than the evil lurking in the shadows. Brothers by birth, bound by the fire of circumstances, Thomas and Hank strive to save a reeling nation. But, to do so, they must accomplish the impossible!

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Book three is where this series really grabs a hold of you and refuses to let go. Suddenly there are even more questions than there were before and you just keep reading hoping for some answers! The cast of characters continues to grow in size but somehow the authors write them in such a way that for the most part, there's no difficulty in keeping everyone sorted out. For those that get a bit confused, there's a cast of characters listing in the back of the book. I'm unsure as to why it's written the way that it is, but I'm sure that will come to light before the end of the series.

Hank and Thomas are doing what they can not only to survive but to bring along the kingdom with them. Each of them has their own roles and as each book progresses, we're dragged along (in the best of ways) on their emotional journeys as well as their physical ones. I honestly cannot wait to see what happens next. I have a million questions... Is Youngblood a good guy or a bad guy? Who is this mysterious assassin? What's happened to Thierry? What about the infant? Will the bad, icky creatures overrun the capital?

I guess I'll just have to keep reading to find out. If you'd like to read along with me, contact the authors via their Facebook page and convince them to sell you copies of this series!





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Monday, October 9, 2017

Crockpot Monday: Eggs, Cheese, and Sausage Casserole

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One last casserole before we find our way back to yummy chicken recipes! I just can't help myself! I love these ingredients...

Ingredients:
5 large eggs
3/4 cup cut up cooked sausage
1.5 cups shredded cheese
4 baby potatoes
1 cup milk

Directions:
Chop up your potatoes into little cubes. Mix eggs and milk together inside your crockpot. Add remaining ingredients and mix again.

Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

Can it get any easier or any yummier? So simple and so delicious! I need to make this really soon!





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Friday, October 6, 2017

Book Review: The Princes of Ameron

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The sensation he felt walking through the passage was disturbing. The expected tingling flowed through his body as the mysterious blue light glowed about him. He tensed his muscles, but, as before in the upper catacombs, there was no pain. Thomas couldn't help but wonder at the nature of this magic... The epic adventure continues in The Princes of Ameron as Thomas fights to save his own life and the lives of strangers he has grown to cherish. Hank, his brother, struggles to keep the threads of darkness from his mind and to understand the awesome power laid at his feet...a power no man has the right to wield. Both men, blessed by the One and haunted by personal ghosts, strive to walk the path thrust before them...until a twist of fate allows them to choose another. In the sequel to The Heir of Ameron, the kingdom of Ameron falls deeper into the clutches of the evil Shanta Raau whose cryptic intentions and brutally dark armies leave an entire nation reeling in chaos. The two brothers, both with the only legitimate claims to the throne, are expected to deliver the realm from spiraling into the pit of darkness. Unfortunately, neither brother has any desire to wear the crown. One will have no choice.

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Book 2! I'm so glad that I went back and bought the other 4 books in this series. Book 2 had me reading every single chance that I got. The plot has just enough twists and turns that I feel as if I'm learning things right alongside the characters. The series is quickly becoming a history lesson within what's currently happening within the kingdom. The characters are starting to discover who they are and their roles. The Christian themes were stronger within this book but even if you don't share those beliefs, it shouldn't take you outside of the story. Honestly, I can't get enough of this series. If you'd like to check it out, contact the authors via their Facebook page. Unfortunately, I think that direct from author is the only way to get your fingers on this series.

It's my hopes that once the drama with their publisher is resolved, they'll have the rights to these books and will re-issue them. These could do very well. I'll be keeping my eyes open for a website or further information for sure!


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Monday, October 2, 2017

Crockpot Monday: Breakfast Potatoes and Sausage

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Are you looking for something to go alongside your eggs or some other breakfast entree? Look no further! Breakfast potatoes and sausage is the perfect breakfast sidekick!

Ingredients:
bunch of red potatoes
 1 yellow onion
 package of breakfast sausage (precooked works well for this)
 2 Tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt (to taste)
Black pepper (to taste)

Directions:

Wash potatoes well, and chop them into chunks. Chop up the onion. Toss the potatoes and onion with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Place the potatoes and onions in your cockpot and then add your chopped up sausage on top.

Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Serve with your favorite breakfast entree and enjoy!



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Friday, September 29, 2017

Book Review: The Heir of Ameron

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As the kingdom of Ameron draws nearer to crisis, Thomas, the privileged son of a powerful lord, and Hank, the son of a humble farmer, are each called to a quest. Thomas must follow the king's wizard to a mysterious chamber filled with artifacts and writings that he does not understand. Hank is recruited to help with agricultural efforts to save an entire region from famine. What Thomas and Hank do not realize is that their destinies are entwined in ways they could never anticipate. As each learns more about himself, his past, and his family, the purposes of their lives are no longer clear. Thrust into an ancient conflict involving wizards and immortals, Hank and Thomas slowly and separately learn their value and their place in the world. In The Heir of Ameron, Thomas fights to survive as his wizard guide's motives become more and more suspect. Hank faces manipulation, seduction, and betrayal as he strives to restore economic prosperity to Ameron's capital. As the forces of darkness descend on Ameron, will these two very different men realize their connection and what must be done to restore peace to the kingdom? The Heir of Ameron is a richly detailed fantasy adventure, taking readers into a world of magic, intrigue, politics, and history.

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Wandering the aisles of Gen Con, Roger and I were called over to a table filled with books. I had just said that I wasn't stopping by book tables because my "to read" stack was already out of control. Knowing just how hard it can be to get people to stop though, I couldn't turn away from someone trying to get our attention.

I'm really glad I followed that instinct. The tale we were told about these folks' publisher is enough for me to be glad that I have Nick to do the publishing on our books. It was also enough to get me to purchase book 1 of this 5 book series.

I had only read a couple of chapters before I had decided that I needed to buy the other four books the following day. I didn't want to have to risk not being able to find them later if I decided that I wanted them. Let me tell you why...

The characters - Each one as unique as anyone not in a book and each one having something that draws you to them.

The plot - Continually moving but it never feels rushed and at the same time, it never felt as if it dragged.

This book kept me reading from page one to the last page. If I have any complaint it's that the book takes on a religious tone towards the end. I don't blame the authors for not pitching it as a Christian book, but the publisher doesn't list it as one which threw me off when it became a bit in your face. This didn't stop me from picking up book 2. If you like fantasy that is somehow a mixture of past and future, I suggest you contact the authors via their Facebook page. This book is well worth you taking a chance on it.


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Monday, September 25, 2017

Crockpot Monday: Mexican Breakfast Casserole

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Another casserole! Crock pots are perfect for this kind of meal and Mexican food is soooo yummy! Don't believe me? Try this recipe!

Ingredients:
corn tortillas
8 eggs
2 cups fat free milk
2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
1 (7-ounce) can green chili, drained
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 tiny onion, diced
1 cup corn (frozen will work for this)
1 cup sliced mushrooms (optional)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

Butter or spray the inside of your stoneware. Put a layer of corn tortillas on the bottom. You may need to tear some to make it fit well.

In a very large mixing bowl, combine all of the other ingredients, and whisk together. Pour about 1/2 of the mixture into the slow cooker, on top of the tortillas. Put in another layer of tortillas, and top with the remaining egg/milk/cheese/other stuff mixture. Top with another layer of corn tortillas.

Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours, or on high for 4-5. If your crockpot seals well (my 4-quart has a plastic lid, and a lot of condensation builds up), uncover 15-20 minutes before serving and cook on high to release condensation and to firm up the top a bit. You know your breakfast is done when the eggs are fully cooked and the edges have begun to brown and the cheese gets a bit crispy on the sides.


So what do you think? Totally delicious?


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Friday, September 22, 2017

Book Review: Foundations of Drawing

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From a leading art instructor at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, a complete survey of drawing as an art form covering its history, materials, and key techniques, alongside step-by-step demonstrations.

Foundations of Drawing is a comprehensive and authoritative overview of the history, aesthetics, methods, and materials of the drawing medium. Throughout, clearly defined demonstrations provide easy access to the practice of drawing as well as the history and development of core drawing techniques. Richly illustrated, the book contains reproductions of the finest master drawings from the fifteenth century to the present. Unlike other drawing instruction books that focus on step-by-step lessons exclusively, Foundations of Drawing provides readers with the context and background to help understand just why these materials and methods are so vital for successful drawing.

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Artist I am not. That may be the understatement of the century. I cannot draw a straight line even with a ruler. Still, I very much appreciate art and I have quite a few friends who are artists so I thought I'd give this one a read through.

This book is perfect for those who aren't looking for a how to draw book. This book combines the history of drawing with drawing techniques. I especially appreciated the section on drawing materials. As someone who scrapbooks and colors in coloring books, it was information that I could use even if I never try to draw another sad little stick figure. I always appreciate books that have information that I can adapt to whatever it is that I'm doing.

So, if you're looking for a book that's jam packed with information, I'm sure you'll enjoy this book. As for me, I'm going to find an art lover to pass it on to because knowledge and art should be shared.





I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts, comments, and opinions are my own. 

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Monday, September 18, 2017

Crockpot Monday: Hashbrown Casserole

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Casseroles often are considered a thing of the past, but don't let that stop you from creating a delicious breakfast for your family! Who doesn't love oooey gooey cheese, hashbrowns, and eggs?

Ingredients:
30 ounce package of plain, frozen hashbrown (shredded) potatoes
4 already cooked sausage, or leftover diced ham
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1.5 cups shredded cheese
12 eggs
1 cup skim or fat free milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

Spray the inside of your crockpot with cooking spray. Dump in the whole package of hash browns. Spread them out with your fingers, and break up any clumps.

In a mixing bowl, mix the dozen eggs with the milk, salt, pepper, cheese, cut up sausage, and diced vegetables. Pour everything on top of the hash browns.

Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4. This is done when the eggs are fully cooked and the edges start to brown a bit. If you want the cheese to brown and get a bit crispy on the sides, cook it longer.

Breakfast is served!

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Friday, September 15, 2017

Book Review: How Music Works

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How Music Works is David Byrne's incisive and enthusiastic look at the musical art form, from its very inceptions to the influences that shape it, whether acoustical, economic, social or technological. Utilizing his incomparable career and inspired collaborations with Talking Heads, Brian Eno, and many others, Byrne taps deeply into his lifetime of knowledge to explore the panoptic elements of music, how it shapes the human experience, and reveals the impetus behind how we create, consume, distribute, and enjoy the songs, symphonies, and rhythms that provide the backbeat of life. Byrne's magnum opus uncovers ever-new and thrilling realizations about the redemptive liberation that music brings us all.

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Sometimes it's the simplest of covers that draw your attention. That was the case with this book for me. Some of you may be familiar with the author's musical career but as someone who is absolutely horrible with names, I was blank when I chose this book. That being said, I'm glad that I did pick it up.

While I read it cover to cover, it is written so that each chapter can be read on its own and in any order. I appreciated how Byrne tied together his own history with music with topical essays that were jam packed full of information. If I had a complaint it's that the book felt a bit heavy at times and I found that this was one where it was better for me to read a chapter a night and come back another night for more. This isn't necessarily a bad thing since this girl needs her beauty sleep!

All in all, a very enjoyable read that I'm looking forward to passing on to my musician son to see what he thinks.





I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts, comments, and opinions are my own.

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Monday, September 11, 2017

Crockpot Monday: Granola (cereal)

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They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? What do you think? I do find that if I eat a proper breakfast, I feel more prepared to handle whatever the day has in store for me. Have you ever made your own granola? That's what we're going to try this week!

Ingredients:
5 cups oats
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup melted butter
1 Tablespoon flax seeds
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup dried fruit (I used raisins and cranberries)

Directions:

Put all the dry ingredients into your crock pot. Melt the butter in the microwave and add. Add the honey. Toss well.

Cover, but vent with a chopstick. Cook on high for 3-4 hours, stirring every so often.

If you can smell the granola cooking, go stir. It will burn if you don't keep an eye on it. But it won't burn as quickly this way as it does in the oven!

Let me know what you think!


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Friday, September 8, 2017

Book Review: The Barbizon Diaries

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“Mythologies are huge, sweeping things. And the grandest stories are those with the widest arcs of triumph and despair. As much as we may want to, we may not be able to avoid the despair – but triumph is a matter of will." DRAWING OUT THE DRAGONS was written for everyone, but this second book in The Meditations series is an advanced course in surviving the Refiner’s Fire – because some stories are too important not to share, and some stories are too meaningful to hide.

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If you read my last review, you'll know that I'm fairly in love with how James has found the courage to not only tell his story but to embrace it and himself. The day after I finished Drawing Out the Dragons, I started The Barbizon Diaries. It wasn't about what happened next (or in this case during since the time frames overlap), it was about finding more of myself during a period where I felt completely lost.

Like James, I've had things that have happened to me in my life. So much, in fact, that people have asked me how I ever managed to survive let alone turn into a great person. Those are their words, I promise. I would never describe myself that way. The difference is that while James faced things head on, I put my head down and just tried to survive.

If any of that resonates with you, please pick up this book and read it. While reading the first book would be a very good thing, this one easily stands on its own and I honestly think that there's something for everyone in there.





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Monday, September 4, 2017

Crockpot Monday: Layered Dinner

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Happy Labor Day, everyone! On this hopefully lovely day, none of us ought to be slaving away in the kitchen. I know some of you are having cookouts and enjoying one last break before everything Fall jumps into play, but for those of you who aren't, why not try this recipe for Layered Dinner and let me know what you think!

Ingredients:

1.5 pounds rib eye steak (or whatever meat you have on hand)
1 tablespoon of your favorite seasoning rub
1 tablespoon dried onion flakes (or fresh onion)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup broth
2-4 potatoes
2-4 ears of fresh corn
aluminum foil

Directions: 

Put meat in the bottom of the crockpot. Rub with seasoning and onion, and flip over to get the other side. Add broth and Worcestershire sauce.

Wash potatoes and cover with foil. Add to the pot. Shuck the corn, and wrap each ear in foil. Add to the crockpot.

Cover and cook on high for 5-7 hours, or on low for about 8. Unwrap and serve!

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Friday, September 1, 2017

Book Review: Drawing Out the Dragons

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"I believe in you. You have a great destiny. You are meant for great things. And it s possible to live a wonderful, extraordinary life." That is the promise offered by bestselling author and illustrator James A. Owen in this remarkable and inspirational meditation. In Drawing Out the Dragons, James shares personal stories and the deep truths he learned while navigating past obstacles and adversity toward a life of lasting belief and joy. We all have a grand destiny, but sometimes we feel we lack the power to achieve it. But we always have the power to choose. Every drawing, every life, is nothing but a series of choices and actions. Make your lines. Make your choices. . . . What you create from there is entirely up to you. Drawing Out the Dragons has the power to uplift, inspire, and change your life.

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Sometimes in life, you get what you need just when you need it. For me, that was the case with Drawing Out the Dragons. I was chin deep in a depression that was threatening to swallow me whole and me, being me, posted about it on my blog. It wasn't much later that I received a Facebook message from someone reminding me that they'd sent me the pdfs of not only this book, but the other two in the series. Little did either of us realize, but I'd purchased the Kindle versions back in 2016 and forgotten all about it until I found my Kindle and they were right on top staring at me. Never one to ignore such blatant hints from the universe, I curled up at the park one day and started reading. I didn't stop until I'd finished this book.

Why? Because every page spoke to me on some level. James has been through some horrendous things, but it wasn't his difficulties that had me. After all, I've long said that everyone of us on this planet has a challenge or challenges to overcome. It was the ways in which James overcame them. He never quit. Here I was contemplating the value of my own life and James is screaming from the rooftops that it's okay and that no matter what, he isn't going to let me fall. Sometimes, when everything seems the darkest, all it takes is one person saying hey, I believe in you. Sometimes all it takes is seeing how someone else survived and thrived to make you sit up, take some deep breathes, and say, "Okay world, let's give this another shot."

Thank you, James...for reminding me that I can do this and like you say in the book, "Always, always ask for what you want. Because the Universe might surprise you — and give it to you.” I'm hoping to someday be able to ask for one of those Dragon pictures because I want it to serve as a reminder of what I can do in this world. 



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Monday, August 28, 2017

Crockpot Monday: Korean Beef Soft Tacos

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Today is the first day of school. I can't believe it but I have not only a junior, but a senior as well! Where the heck has the time gone? It just doesn't seem possible that they're this old already.  I'm trying really hard not to blink because I'm afraid if I do, I'll open my eyes and they'll be married with kids of their own! As long as my eyes are open, I might as well get dinner going....

Ingredients:
 3-4 pounds beef roast
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 head garlic (peeled, but cloves intact - about 10 cloves)
 1/2 onion, diced
1 inch fresh ginger root, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons seasoned rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 whole jalapeno, diced (be careful! use gloves!)
*Shredded Cabbage (recipe below!)

The Directions:

Use a 6-quart slow cooker. Trim off the visible fat from your roast. Toss all of the ingredients into the crockpot. Ta da!

Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or until meat has fully shredded.  Serve in soft corn or flour tortillas with shredded cabbage salad and white or brown rice.

Shredded Cabbage:

1 bag shredded coleslaw from the grocery store's produce section
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Toss together and serve immediately (It wilts if you leave it sit for too long.)

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Friday, August 25, 2017

Book Review: Blackstrap's Estacy

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It may be a junk, but Ecstasy is not a ship to trifle with! Nor is her captain! Pirate, harem girl, thief or noble lady? No one, not even her eclectic crew, is quite certain where Blackstrap Gennie came from and they certainly are never sure of where she will go. But as those who follow her, know, adventure, explosions, and treasure are never in short supply!

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I was given this book a number of years ago by a friend who was given it by the author but just couldn't get through it. I showed some interest and the next thing I knew, it was coming home with me!

The Good: This book is filled with some really fun and interesting characters and the story, of sorts, keeps hopping along.

The Bad: This book is written in a nonlinear style which means that we get a chapter of action and a chapter of backstory regarding the character that we had just been introduced to. I really feel as if this limited the story and there could have been so much more to it than what was there.

The Summary:  I'm afraid that I have to agree with my friend and give this a meh rating. The potential for something really good was there but it just didn't hit the mark.


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Monday, August 21, 2017

Crockpot Monday: Hawaiian Ribs

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Ahhh Hawaii...land of sandy beaches, ocean waves, and some of the best food this country has to offer. If it weren't a mere few days before the boys had to go back to school and if I'd won the lottery over the summer, Hawaii sounds like the perfect place to get away to...

Ingredients: 
2 pounds boneless beef short ribs, or about 4 pounds baby back ribs
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon Chinese 5-Spice powder (recipe included!)
6 cloves minced garlic

Chinese 5 Spice Powder recipe:
(mix spices well, and store in an air-tight container for up to 6 months)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon crushed anise seed
1/4 teaspoon ground fennel
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

 Directions:

If you're using boneless ribs, they will probably fit nicely in a 4 quart slow cooker. If you've got bones, you'll most likely need a 6-quart.

Put the ribs into the cooker, and top with the remaining ingredients. If you want, you can mix the other ingredients in a small bowl and then brush onto the ribs, but it’s really not necessary.

Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, or on high for about 4 to 5. Flip the ribs over a few times before serving to cover evenly in the sauce. The longer and slower you cook the ribs, the more tender the meat.


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