Monday, July 30, 2018

Crockpot Monday: Lentil Minestrone Soup

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Last week, we had Italian Minestrone and this week, we're ditching the meat and having Lentil Minestrone! This would be great for those of you who do Meatless Monday or who just aren't meat lovers!

Lentil Minestrone:

Ingredients:
2 cups lentils, rinsed
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced carrot
1 onion, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups hearty torn greens, like kale or chard
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth

Directions: 

Use a 6-quart slow cooker. Put the rinsed lentils into the bottom. Add the diced celery, carrot, onion, and garlic. Add the entire can of diced tomatoes, and then add the seasonings and torn greens. Stir in the broth.

Cover, and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, or until the lentils are soft.

Serve with grated Parmesan cheese, if desired, and a hunk of garlic bread.

Yum! Let me know what you think! Do you prefer this or the Italian version?





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Friday, July 27, 2018

Book Review: The Carnelian

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The Gemstone Chronicles - Book Review - Katrina Roets
When Aidan and Maggie find a fairy cross while rock-hunting with their grandfather, it's just an oddity. But when they discover there is an elf imprisoned in the stone and set him free, they and their grandparents, Nana and Beebop, are attacked by Dark Elves and forced to flee to the magical world of Celahir.

In Celahir, Findecano - the elf the children freed from the fairy cross - leads them on a quest to recover gemstones stolen from the Elven Bow by the Dark Elves. Without the restoration of the gemstones to the Elven Bow, the balance between good and evil in Celahir - and the human world - could tip toward evil.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I very much love a good fantasy book and feels as if it's been ages since I've read one. When I came across this book, I snatched it up. The bonus? It's book one in a series of four. You guessed it. I also love a really good fantasy series.

The Good:

The human portion of the main characters was made up of a strong, loving family. They protected, supported, and encouraged each other every step of the way and it was really great to see. On the other side of things, I also enjoyed the mystical creatures in the story and how things were loosely based upon Irish mythology. 

The Bad:

There are a few things, so let me break it down...

Grammar - I lost track of the number of times I was pulled out of the story due to a missing word, a lack of commas, or in at least one case, the author using the wrong pronoun to describe one of his characters. All of this could be corrected with a good proofreader and I hope that the author does so and releases a new edition.

Descriptions - The book got a bit repetitious at times and yet, at others, descriptions that should have come far earlier in the book were left until nearly the end.

Characters - While I really did enjoy most of the characters, I found Aidan a bit disconcerting at times. Don't get me wrong, I know that 14 year old boys can be headstrong and will at times do just what they want and not necessarily what they were told, but Aidan did this on a frequent basis and as someone who is represented as loving and respecting his grandparents, his actions didn't often back that up.

The Summary:

I am truly on the fence as to whether or not I want to purchase the second book in this series. I think that the premise is fantastic and that the story telling itself was, for the most part, really enjoyable. However, the lack of having a good editor or at least a proofreader really has put me off. It's tough to read a book where every few pages you're thrown out of the story. So, my recommendation? Give this one a try and then decide for yourself where to go. For $2.99 on Amazon, you're out less than a cup of coffee at Starbucks if you don't enjoy it. 






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Monday, July 23, 2018

Crockpot Monday: Italian Minestrone Soup

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I love minestrone soup. I just can't help myself. Do you have a favorite soup that you or your family love? Comment below to tell me all about it!

~~~
Italian Minestrone:

Ingredients:
1 pound lean ground meat: pork, beef, or turkey.
4 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 cup chopped carrot
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced or stewed tomatoes
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
4 cups beef broth
2/3 cup dried elbow pasta (to add later)

Directions:

Use a 6-quart slow cooker. Brown the first four ingredients on the stovetop, and drain the fat. Add meat to the slow cooker and your vegetables. Add the whole can of tomatoes, the oregano, and beef broth. Stir to combine.

Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. 30 minutes before serving, stir in the dry pasta. Turn your crockpot to high heat and cook for an additional 30 minutes or until pasta has become bite-tender.

Then serve some up with some rustic bread or a nice salad! Yum!





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Friday, July 20, 2018

Book Review: Eternal Creation

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In the war between darkness and light, everyone has a shade of gray.

Taylor Lane knows who she is and what she’s meant to do. As the creator of humanity, it’s her task to stop her sister Lilith before she goes through with her quest for vengeance. If she doesn’t, humankind will be annihilated. Her best bet to stop Lilith is to secure the celestial rose, the source of all light, but Lilith won’t give up the fight easily.

When Taylor has to choose between saving her love Lucian and fighting Lilith and the darkness that threatens to overtake the world, her destiny becomes the hardest choice she will ever have to make.

Can Taylor save both her lover and the world? Or will she have to sacrifice one to save the other?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I was lucky enough to have Annalee send me the second book in her Celestial Rose series and honestly guys, I know this is the beginning of the review, but I have to tell you that I've already been on Amazon looking to see when the third book is going to be released.

The Good:

Twists, turns, new characters, familiar characters and all of them wonderful! I started reading and couldn't stop. Just ask my cat who enjoyed a nice nap on my back while I sprawled out on the couch! There is so much that I want to say but I can't because it will be spoiler city! 

The Bad:

There's something about the author's writing style that it always takes me a chapter or two to slip into it. I know I've filed this under bad but it really isn't, it's just different and once I get going, I can't stop reading.

The Summary:

Go and buy Eternal Entity, this book, and pre-order Eternal Devastation. It's been a long time since I've been so excited about reading a series and this one has me wishing Eternal Damnation was on my Kindle right now so that I could read it! 





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, July 16, 2018

Crockpot Monday: Chicken and Rice Soup

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Are you one of those people who love soups and stews no matter what time of year it is? I confess that I'm not. When it's hot out, the last thing I seem to want is a bowl of steaming hot soup. Still, summer evenings can be cool here in the north so it's always good to have a recipe at hand!

~~~~
Chicken & Rice Soup:

Ingredients:
2 boxes of chicken broth
1 cup of uncooked brown rice
1 cup of water
1 cup cooked, shredded chicken
1.5-2 cups of vegetables (celery, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, red bell pepper, and green onion)
1 teaspoon herbs de provence (sounds fancy)
salt and pepper to taste after cooking

Directions:
Chop the veggies into whatever size your family likes.  Add all of the ingredients into your crockpot.

Cook on low for as long as you can.

It can't get much simpler than that! As always, please let me know if you've tried this recipe and what you thought!





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Friday, July 13, 2018

Book Review: Killer Cupcakes

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Book Review - Killer Cupcakes - Katrina Roets
Things are going great for Lexy Baker. She's finally opened her dream bakery, gotten rid of her cheating boyfriend and settled into her grandmothers house with her perky dog Sprinkles at her side.

But her blissful life doesn't last long. When her ex boyfriend is found poisoned with cupcakes from her bakery, Lexy finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation headed up by her hunky neighbor detective Jack Perillo.

With the help of a gang of iPad toting, would-be detective grandmothers, Lexy decides to take it upon herself to find the real murderer in order to clear her name and get her bakery back in business.

As things heat up on the murder trail, in the kitchen and between Lexy and the hunky detective, it's a race against time to put the real murderer behind bars and get back to baking.

Will Lexy get her man?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I needed a day off reading and relaxing so I took one and came across this book on my Kindle. I have no idea when I picked it up, but I did!

The Good:

This was a really fast and easy read. I enjoyed seeing the relationships between Lexy and her nan and also between Lexy and her bestfriend. The big reveal wasn't anything shocking but sometimes you want a whodunit that doesn't tax your brain but just lets you smile and say yep, I got it.

The Bad:

Some of the book just wasn't believable. No baker is going to go to work wearing 3+ inch stilettos, especially expensive ones. Even the character said her feet would be killing her by the end of the day. Not to mention that they'd be absolutely destroyed the first time something was spilled on them. 

The Summary:

If you're looking for a light read, I can suggest this cozy mystery. Just be prepared to overlook some bits of silliness. I'm going to be checking out some of the author's other books the next time I get a chance to order some. For now, I believe that this book is free over on Amazon, so give it a read!





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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Wordsmith Wednesday: You are a Writer (So Act Like It)

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Becoming a writer begins with a simple but important belief: You are a writer; you just need to write.

In You Are a Writer, Jeff Goins shares his own story of self-doubt and what it took for him to become a professional writer. He gives you practical steps to improve your writing, get published in magazines, and build a platform that puts you in charge.

This book is about what it takes to be a writer in the 21st Century. You will learn the importance of passion and discipline and how to show up every day to do the work.

Here's what else you will learn:

- How to transition from wanting to be a writer to actually being one
- What “good” writing is (and isn’t)
- How to stop waiting to be picked and finally choose yourself
- What it takes to build a platform
- Why authors need to brand themselves (and how to do it)
- Tips for freelancing, guest blogging, and getting published in magazines
- Different ways to network with other writers, artists, and influencers
- The importance of blogging and social media and how to use it well to find more readers and fans of your writing

You Are a Writer will help you fall back in love with writing and build an audience who shares your love. It’s about living the dream of a life dedicated to words.

AND IT ALL BEGINS WITH YOU.

~~~~~~~~~~~~
Guess what else begins with me? This review because I'm writing it!

The Good:

The writer is very honest regarding his opinions and his own path. This does build trust which is important in this type of book. The points found in its pages are all valid.

The Bad:

I'm afraid that this book really isn't for those who are trying to find their own path as a writer, unless you have a desire to write for magazines. Yep, I said it. Magazines. There was a lot of information regarding that particular aspect versus the other areas that are listed in the description. 

The Summary:

I'm afraid that, for the most part, I received all of the information that I needed from the title of the book. I'm a writer and I need to act like it. I need to put in the work and to make writing into something that I do every day, not just when the whim hits. If you're looking for information on how to pitch ideas for magazines, then this could be a useful book to you. If you're looking for something to help guide you a step or three further down your writer's path, then I'd give this one a miss.





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Monday, July 9, 2018

Crockpot Monday : Irish Potatoes

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Do you have a favorite food? I think mine is probably potatoes. You can do so many things with them and they always taste so good! As we close out this round of side dishes, you just know that I had to sneak some more potatoes in!

Ingredients:
2.5 pounds potatoes, cut into wedges
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon dried parsley
2 green onions, sliced
3 teaspoons dried dill
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions: 

Use a 6-quart slow cooker. Put the cut potatoes and water into the slow cooker.

Cover and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours or until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain the accumulated liquid and put the potatoes back in. Toss potatoes with melted butter, lemon juice, sliced green onion, and all seasonings.

--- I think I'm going to do some of these along side some burgers before the summer is out!






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Friday, July 6, 2018

Book Review: The Girl at the Well

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The Girl at the Well - Book Review - Life With Katie
The life of a young princess is turned upside down when she discovers her parents are evil despots. How far will she go to end their reign of terror?

Liralexa Abbingdon, heir to the throne of the Kingdom of the Nine Regions, lives a charmed but confined life. One fateful day, she discovers a portal next to a well on palace grounds. Unable to control her curiosity, she travels to the Step Region where she meets five teenagers. They tell her the king and queen are tyrants who levy excessive taxes. When the regions can't pay, their children are taken away to fight to the death at an event called the Strages. Believing her parents are kind and honorable rulers, she haughtily refuses to believe them. On her 17th birthday, she attends the Strages for the first time and is disgusted as she watches young people her age suffer and die as excited crowds cheer them on. The remorseful princess returns to the Step Region and falls for the Governor's son Malthus. The two meet almost every day. When he is taken away to fight in the Strages, she is forced to make a terrible choice.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I have quite a few books sitting on my Kindle that have been waiting who knows how long for me to decide to read them. To be honest, I picked this one at random. I don't remember buying it. I don't remember how I even heard of it, but there it was...

The Good:

I quite enjoyed the character of Liralexa and watching her come into her own throughout this book. To suddenly realize that your world is nothing like you thought it was would be devastating and as I read, I could feel that anguish. Really all of the characters were enjoyable to read and I found the descriptions of the various locations really added to the feel of the narrative.

The Bad:

I can't tell you exactly why, but I kept wondering if this was the author's first book. There is at least one item in the book that was a bit repetitious and I kept thinking, "yes, I already know that. You don't have to tell me again." Also, I didn't feel as if the characters really developed throughout the book. I would love to expand on this, but I just can't without giving away spoilers. 

The Summary:

All in all, this was an enjoyable and quick read. Enjoyable enough that I actually went to see if there were more in this series or at least others that take place within this world. There aren't, but I hope that the author continues to build upon the Kingdom of the Nine Regions because I would genuinely like to read more. 

So, if you're looking for a light fantasy book, I'd pop over to Amazon and pick this one up. It's currently listed at 99c so you really can't go wrong.





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Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Wordsmith Wednesday : Building An Audience

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Different Ways to Go About Building An Audience

This week's Wordsmith Wednesday is going to focus on three different articles that I've read about how to build an audience. They each come at it from a different angle: SEO (increase traffic to your site), 5 other ways, and how to use Pinterest to help build your audience.

Just Publishing Advice - Building An Audience

Simple SEO Practices That Do Get More Blog Traffic

(article can be found at: Just Publishing Advice)

If you read my Wordsmith Wednesday post about how to best optimize blog posts for SEO, this article is a basic take on that. The author gives you the 6 steps that he used and shows graphics showing the before and after. 

If you're new to the idea of SEO, this is a great article to start. The steps listed are easy enough that anyone can use them and they work on whatever platform you're using (blogger/Wordpress). I'm going to start incorporating them into my own posts and hopefully, in the future, I'll be able to report back and let all of you know how it works!

The Complete Creative - Building Your Audience

5 Best Ways to Rapidly Build Your Audience (Without Breaking the Bank)

(article can be found at: The Complete Creative)

What I love about this article is that again, these are easy steps, that almost anyone can do. Russell gives the reader 5 different ways that any creative can use to build their audience. Even for the options that have a price tag attached to them, Russell gives options for how to make them affordable.

I love the fact that Russell gets it. He understands what it's like to be a broke creator who is starting from the bottom and working their way up. He does intermix ads for his own products into the article and at least one was a bit distracting, but the information in the article is well worth reading and hey, if you sign up for one of his courses, tell him Katrina sent you. 

Catalyst For Business - Building An Audience
Unfortunately, I couldn't find a logo for the site that I could use.

How to use Pinterest to Skyrocket Website Traffic

(article can be found at: Catalyst for Business)

I'm a Pinterest junkie and I don't even try to deny it. I have boards for just about everything, I think. So, when I came across this article, I couldn't wait to read it. Who wouldn't want to make their addictions work for them?

This article again is clear and lays out all of the information in a way that was easy to follow along. It covers a bit of what Pinterest is and how it can be used to help draw traffic to your website. The author lays out everything from how many times a day you should be pinning to what dimensions are now the standard for your Pinterest graphics. 

So there you have it, three articles that I've found to be incredibly helpful as I find my way along this road to being a professional creator/author. I can't wait to try out some of the tips and suggestions listed in the articles! If you try them out and they work for you, please come back and let me know! 






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Monday, July 2, 2018

Crockpot Monday: Fried Rice

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Did your mom or grandma ever make refrigerator soup? That's when they'd walk to the fridge and just start dumping whatever was leftover into one big pot and you prayed that it turned into something you might want to eat? This recipe for fried rice is a bit like that. It's the perfect recipe to toss those bits of leftover veggies and meat into!

Ingredients:
2 cups leftover rice/quinoa
3 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/8 tsp iodized)
1/2 diced yellow onion
1 cup of whatever frozen or fresh vegetables you have on hand
2 cups leftover meat, diced
1 egg
sesame seeds (for garnish, optional)

Directions:
Add everything into your crockpot. Mix it around. Cook on high for 2-3 hours, or on low for 3-4.

.....and now I'm hungry!




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