Friday, December 30, 2011

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Movie Review--Super 8

Super 8     1 hour 52 minutes      released 2011       rated PG-13

For four months Joe copes with the physical loss of his mother and the emotional distance of his father, the deputy of a small town. His friends decide to enter a movie-making contest with a Super 8 camera.

While shooting the movie, Joe and his friends witness something incredible. 25-year-old secrets begin to unfold causing events to quickly spiral out of control.

The story seems almost autobiographical the way it drew me in. J. J. Abrams does a masterful job of building the suspense slowly against the backdrop of a race for survival.

I was surprised at how much I liked this movie. It's a coming of age tale for Joe, his father, and his friends. I'd give it 3.5 stars out of 5. It's definitely worth a look-see.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Festive Cheese Ball

A good Cheese Ball offsets all the holiday sugar intake. Its fun to nibble during a fun, family game night or New Year's Eve party. This is from Christmas Recipes from the Lion House.

2 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese
2 cups grated cheddar (I like to use Colby-jack)
2 TBSP finely chopped green onion
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp lemon pepper
1 cup finely chopped nuts
chopped parsley

Soften cream cheese. Add remaining ingredients except nuts and parsley; mix well until blended. Divide mixture in half. Spoon into 2 small bowls lined with wax paper. Refrigerate for several hours. Lift out wax paper with cheese mixture from each bowl, and mold cheese into ball, using wax paper to protect hands. Roll each ball in chopped nuts and parsley. Refrigerate. Remove about 15 minutes before serving and serve with a variety of crackers. Makes 2 small balls.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tuesday Tips--Good Informational Blogs

Good informational blogs (sorry, I couldn't find just the right image for this). These are blogs I have found very helpful for the type of research I do. I know there are scads more out there. These are merely the tip of the iceberg:
http://robertleebrewer.blogspot.com  He has good, practical information. I'm going to put up a Facebook timeline from an article he posted on his blog. Excellent for techno-challenged people like me.
http://iwritenetworkning.ning.com A very informative social network for writers.
http://www.slcc.edu/cwc/  This is the Community Writing Center run by Salt Lake Community College. They offer free and low-cost classes and workshops.
http://elanajohnson.blogspot.com  See her Query letter page. She is the Query Ninja!
http://writetodone.com/  A lot of good 'how-to' articles. You can download their free book The (Nearly) Ultimate Guide to Better Writing.
http://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.com  Several authors share their research on English History--Good resource!
http://sarahs-history-place.blogspot.com  She posts research articles related to everyday English life, from falconry to toys and games to economics and the Plague--a wonderful resource.

What are some of your favorite blogs? I could really use a good resource for Scottish history and accents.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Quote of the Day


"Happiness has one advantage over wealth--no one can borrow it!"--Unknown

Remember that for Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

7 Layer Cookies

This is a bar cookie that you'd better cut into small pieces because they are soooo rich and gooey!

Butter or spray the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch pan.

First layer--1 pkg graham crackers, crushed. Line the bottom of the pan.
Second layer--drizzle with one stick melted butter or margarine.
Third layer--Sprinkle with 2 cups chopped walnuts
Fourth layer--Sprinkle with 1 (12 oz) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips.
Fifth layer--Sprinkle with 1 (12 oz) bag of butterskotch chips.
Sixth layer--sprinkle with 2 cups coconut
Seventh layer--drizzle 1 (14 oz ) can sweetened condensed milk over the top
Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. If your oven gets too hot you may need to reduce time and temp. The coconut should be golden. Wait for cookies to cool before cutting.

Hint: I like to make my own sweetened condensed milk because it's so inexpensive. The following recipe is enough to cover 2 pans of 7 Layer cookies:

1 cup hot water
2 cups sugar
Heat until sugar is dissolved. Add 1/4 cup margarine (which is half of a stick). Pour in blender and add 2 1/2 cups powdered milk. Blend until smooth.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

My Top Ten Favorite Christmas Movies

 I love family-friendly Christmas movies. I especially love the LDS Church's Christmas videos depicting our Savior's birth. They went to great lengths to make them with as much historical accuracy as possible.

This is a list of fun movies I enjoy watching every year.
Counting down from #10-Ernest Saves Christmas--I know, corny, but Ernest embodies the child-like faith and joy of the season.
#9-Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus with Richard Thomas.
#8-The Story Lady with Jessica Tandy.
#7-Home Alone and Home Alone 2.
#6-The Santa Clause 1, 2, and 3.
#5-Holiday Inn and White Christmas.
#4-The Bishop's Wife with Cary Grant and Loretta Young.
#3-The Polar Express.
#2-A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott, of course there's zillions of different versions out there. This one is my favorite.
And #1 is It's A Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed.

You may be thinking that's cliche, but I don't care. I fell in love with this movie as a sophomore at BYU. I took the film class thinking it was a cake class but ended up learning something. I had never seen nor heard of this movie before. What a delight, but then, who doesn't love Jimmy Stewart? I'll be a fan until the day I die, George Bailey.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Easiest Fudge Ever!

Are you ready for the easiest fudge recipe ever? This came from my neighbor and friend, Linda:

Combine 1 bag semisweet chocolate chips with 1 cup of milk chocolate chips and 1 can of sweetened condensed milk and warm over low heat until it melts. Add 1 cup nuts or anything else you want (mint--mmmm). Pour into buttered 8x8 pan. Chill at least 1 hour.
P.S. Have you ever googled 'fudge' images? Mouth-watering!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tuesday Tips--Organizational Tool

You wouldn't know it to look at my desk, but I crave organizational tools. I sometimes use them to distract me from writing. I begin researching at almost the same moment I begin thinking of ideas for a new book. I try to keep my notes organized in file folders and a filing cabinet, but I sometimes forget how or where I filed stuff. I also like to gather pictures, maps and floor plans.

This tip comes from a blogpost by Canda Mortensen on the http://iwritenetworkning.ning.com/ website. The post is her notes on an interview with Nancy Allen about the notebook she puts together when she writes. I like this system because I can put all of my research in one spot, and I'm not confined to a certain number of pages--it can grow with my research. Here is Nancy Allen's notebook--each tab has a purpose:

Tab 1--Brainstorming: She puts all random thoughts, beautiful phrases, action, ideas, etc., in here.
Tab 2--General Outline: She writes a synopsis, no details or elaboration--just a half page of how the story  starts and ends. (For me, I prefer J.K. Rowling's method of outlining. If you'd like a copy of what my outline chart looks like, leave a comment with your email address.)
Tab 3--Individual Character Analysis: This includes physical characteristics, interests, strengths, weaknesses,
family history, motivation, goals, most prized possession, etc. (My character development comes from James N. Frey: physiological traits + sociological factors [family, background] = psychological [motivation, and what he really wants], pedigree and family group sheets with images from the Internet if possible, and the character's life story, including all of his secrets, written by that character.
Tab 4--Research: She keeps all of her notes in one place (historical details, dress, sayings, etc).
Tab 5--Running Edits: If you need to make changes you can jot down a note in this section about what needs to be fixed on what page without interrupting your writing. You can go back and fix items in your list later.
Tab 6--Next time notes: When you run out of time for writing jot down the ideas that are still in your head
or goals for your next session.
Tab 7--Scene Maps: First, she writes the goal of the scene. What's the point of this scene? Then she uses
sticky notes to write one event/action on each one. Then she can move those around to get the order she wants before writing. If she has 5 sticky notes and only uses 3 in that scene, she moves the other stickies to the next scene (this is the one I'm most anxious to try).
Tab 8--Sources: This is the place to document the books, movies, websites, documentaries, etc., that are
used in researching the story.

The best part of this system is that it is totally customizable. For my use, I combined Research and Sources together in the same tab, so that I could add another tab for maps, floor plans, architectural pictures, pictures of historical figures, and my own drawings. I also put my scene maps right behind my outline section.

This is so much nicer than having file folders all over the place. If I need my research on another project, its going to be a lot easier to find!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Quote of the Day


"If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing."  ~Benjamin Franklin

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Thursday Book Review--All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin


I'm reviewing a few YA books for my local library for the Beehive Book Awards. So far, I've read two books. The first book did not hold my attention enough to plow through the bad language, and since I have little positive to say about it, I won't. I realize that I have rather puritanical tastes so just know that I can't recommend Dreamland Social Club. One of the reasons I read YA is too avoid offensive language.

Anyway, on to my review of All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin.

This is a dystopian set in 2083 New York City. Water and paper are scarce. Coffee and chocolate are illegal. Sixteen-year-old Anya Balanchine's family have been in the chocolate business for years. Her father was the crime boss of the Balanchine family until he was killed by a hitman when she was nine, and her mother was killed three years before that. Her bedridden grandmother is her legal guardian. At the time when this story takes place, Anya is saddled with the responsiblity of caring for her bedridden grandmother, and older brother who is mentally incompetent, and a younger sister. She does whatever it takes to keep her family together while her life becomes increasingly complicated.

The story is well written, and the characters are very well developed. I found myself synpathizing with and cheering for them. Anya struggles to keep her own values while faced with so much responsibility. There is an element of suspense that adds to the intensity. Anna is forced into creative problem-solving, but the story ends on a hopeful note. There are occasional four-letter words, but not distracting, and there is an 'almost' love scene but we are spared the description.

All in all, I'd give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Easy and Yummy Chocolate Eclair Cake

This is a yummy treat for any time of year, but I usually make it for Christmas parties.

Ingredients:

1 package graham crackers
2 pkg (3 oz) french vanilla instant pudding
3 1/2 cups milk
1 (8 oz) carton cool whip

Start with a 9 x 12" pan. Butter (or spray) bottom and sides of pan. Cover bottom of pan with a layer of graham crackers. Mix pudding with milk and blend in cool whip. Layer pudding, graham crackers, pudding and end with graham crackers. Spread Frosting over top.

Frosting:
2 squares of melted unsweetened baking chocolate
1 TBSP corn starch
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 TBSP milk
3 TBSP melted butter

Chill for 24 hours. This lets everything soak in. It really is worth the wait.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Monday Morning Motivation--Life after NaNo


Life after NaNo

All of a sudden the keyboard is silent. I have to admit, I had to take a minute to remember what I was doing before Nano.

I took a couple of days to regroup and list goals.

Sometimes I get sidetracked by the temptation to search for the elusive "perfect Idea" that will knock people's socks off and change the world, and I'll make millions.

That totally sucks all of the joy out of writing for me.

I have to remind myself why I write:
1. because I enjoy reading so much.
2. because writing brings me clarity of thought--which becomes harder with each birthday.
3. because of the sensation I get when characters and events take on lives of their own.
4. because writing teaches me something new every day.
5. because writing is worthwhile and will hopefully bless the lives of my family (see President Hinckley's quote on my sidebar).
6. because I enjoy having a reason to do research.
7. because, most of all, it brings me a simple joy.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Ta Da!

I did it! My final word count is 51991 and I actually finished Tuesday, November 29 at 7 pm. I could've written more, but I was fried.

Although NaNoWriMo's website validated my word count at 51856, I'm sticking with what my computer said--51991. Every little word counts!

And yes, I will be printing this off!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What to Do with Turkey Leftovers


After all the big chunks are devoured in sandwiches, use your small scraps in a Turkey Pot Pie.

3 cups diced turkey
4 cups water (add 4 tsp chicken broth)
1 onion chopped
1 cup chopped celery (about 3 stalks)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 cups sliced carrots ( I put in a bag of whole petities)
5-6 peeled and diced potatoes
1 cup frozen peas (if desired)

Let boil together about twenty minutes until vegetables are soft but not mushy. Add 1 can cream of chicken soup. Take off heat and stir in roux (1 stick melted butter mixed with 1 cup flour). When roux is dissolved return pan to heat and bring to boil until thick. Pour turkey mixture in 9 x 13 pan, place on cookie sheet.

Mix biscuit dough:
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup shortening
1 1/3 cups milk

Mix dry ingredients. Cut in shortening until mixture is coarse. Stir in milk only until mix is moistened. It will be lumpy. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until biscuits are light brown. Serves ten maybe more.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday Morning Motivation--NaNoWriMo Day #28

NaNoWriMo Day #28  The Home Stretch

Word Count 45744

This has been an adventure to see what I could really do. It has been a love-hate relationship.  I like the goal setting and knowing what's possible, but I don't like the gulit of missing a day when life happens. My real life depends on me being able to roll with the punches. I love to see what emerges, how the story and characters take on lives of their own and evolve. I don't like going off willy-nilly. Next time, I will preapre better. I will develop my characters and background story along with the research a month in advance instead of a couple of days before.

Ah, the coulda, woulda, shouldas.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Thursday


Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

We have so many things to be grateful for. So many, that I can't list them all here. Gratitude for my Savior and my family are at the top of my list, along with gratitude for all of the sacrifices of my ancestors, and our founding fathers.

One thing I have always had is a deep and abiding love for are days gone by and the simple ways. Maybe that's the reason I enjoy reading and writing historical fiction more than any other genre.

I'd like to share the lyrics from one of my favorite songs:
Simple Gifts
       by Elder Joseph Brackett

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come 'round right.

May we always be thankful for the simple things in life--family and home and faith.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Herbed Turkey Breast

Herbed Turkey Breast

I roast a full turkey in the oven for Thanksgiving, and an extra breast in the crock-pot because most of the family wants white meat. Crock-pot turkey breast comes out so moist it melts in your mouth.

2 TBSP butter softened
1 TBSP sage
1 TBSP tarragon
1 garlic glove minced
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
4 lbs turkey breast (I cook 7-8 lbs--about 6 hours on high)

Thaw turkey breast. Remove skin and discard. Place turkey breast in crock-pot. Rub butter mixture all over breast. Cover. Cook on low 8-10 hours or high 4-5 hours, until turkey is no longer pink in the center.

Monday, November 21, 2011

NaNoWriMo Day #21

NaNoWriMo day #21

Word Count 37309

This week went better. I think it has been a free-ing experience not to edit as I write, not to worry about convention, and grammar, and passive verbs that plague me. I had hoped to use this story but I'm not sure I want to do all of the revising necesasary. It would feel like I was the guy with the wheelbarrow and shovel after the parade.

Another thing I don't understand are the people who can write 9000- 10,000 words in one day. I'm lucky if I write 3000 words in a day. I am happy with that for now--slow and steady wins the race.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Quote of the Day


"There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face."  ~Ben Williams

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Autumn Stuffing

Autumn Stuffing

3/4 cup toasted raisin bread crumbs
1/4 cup diced unpeeled apple
1/4 cup diced unpeeled pear
1 1/2 TBSP minced onion
1 TBSP finely chopped celery
1 TBSP butter or margarine melted
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp pepper
pinch of ground sage
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans

Toss, cover, microwave on high for 5 minutes.
This recipe works best if fresh apple and pear are used, but can use canned if you're in a pinch.

Monday, November 14, 2011

NaNoWriMo Day #14

NaNoWriMo Day #14

No excuses--I fell behind my goal of 25,000 words for the end of last week. I made it to 23,940 words.

My struggle this week was a lack of purpose. Why was I doing this? Is it just a writing exercise? Even as a first draft it's crap. It is less than crap. It is the dirt beneath crap.

Okay I can deal with revisions. I've been doing revisions on another WIP for the last eight months. Revisions are what we really write, but not during NaNoWriMo.

Then all of a sudden, while writing my blog post for Veteran's Day, my purpose became clear. It's funny, not funny ha ha, but funny strange or peculiar. That's what writing does for me. It brings me clarity of thought. It brings things that are out of focus into sharp focus, sharp enough to jump out at me sometimes.

So. . . armed with purpose I hope to kick things into gear this week. I'll be taking Tuesdays and Thursdays off until December 6.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Quote of the Day


"There are so many people out there who will tell you that you can't. What you've got to do is turn around and say, 'watch me!'"
~Unknown

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thursday Book Review--Austenland by Shannon Hale


Austenland by Shannon Hale

Jane Hayes is thirty-something and single with an obsession for Mr. Darcy and all things Austen. Not just any Mr. Darcy--Colin Firth's portrayal, to be specific. (Me personally, I've never met a Mr. Darcy I didn't like, anyway, let's just say I related well to Jane.)

Jane is intelligent and capable, yet she lacks confidence and has forgotten what joys her own life has to offer. She visits a wealthy great aunt who seems to be one of the few people who understand her. Six months later this aunt dies and bequeaths Jane an all-expense paid trip to Austenland, where women can escape their realities for the romance of a bygone era.

When Jane checks in she leaves her clothes, all of her belongings (almost all), and her identity behind. She is allowed few modern day conveniences but has to where the corsets, eat the food, and participate in the activites of Austen's time. Jane is finally in the middle of a Jane Austen book, and of course wants her old life back. She resists the false part of the story and is attracted to what she thinks is real.

Her journey through Austenland is a path of self-discovery. Like most of us, Jane really hasn't taken the time to figure out what it is she really wants. Eventually she is able to let go of old Jane as she finds new Jane.

That narrative is enchanting and the dialogue is clever--almost as good as Jane Austen, herself. I wasn't ready for the book to end when Jane's vacation came to a close. Luckily, there were a few surprises saved for the end.

One of my daughters thought it was too dramatic. That made it funny to me because I've worked with many drama queens. It's a farce. I thought it more understated and subtle. Basically, this story succeeded in entertaining me. It was a fun, romantic frolic. I give it 4.5 stars out of 5.

Austenland was made into a movie this last summer starring Keri Russell. Stephanie Meyer (Twilight author) is the producer. Midnight in Austenland, a companion book with a new heroine, is set to be released Jan 31, 2012. You can pre-order on B & N website. It sounds like another fun read with a little suspense thrown into the mix.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Old-Fashioned Pumpkin Pie

Old-Fashioned Pumpkin Pie

You can roast your own pumpkin or used canned. I've done both. Roasting my own pumpkin makes it extra good, and you can find smaller pumpkins specially bred for pie-making. You will probably need to strain your pumpkin once it's roasted.

I used to make my own crust, but once I became a working mom I went to frozen pie crusts--not as good as my mom's, but it's better to have time with your family than time in the kitchen.

The best canned pumpkin, in my opinion, is Libby's.

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves
(may use pumpkin spice about 1 tsp)
2 large eggs
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
1 unbaked deep-dish pie shell (if you need to use the shallow ones, use two).

Beat eggs in large bowl, stir in pumpkin and dry ingredients. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.
Before I pour into the pie shell, I cover the edges of the pie crust with aluminum foil. Set the shell on a cookie sheet, then pour the pumpkin into the shell. The shell gets over full so be careful. Using the cookie sheet, place the pie in the oven (I use the bottom shelf). Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove the pie crust guards, reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 40-50 minutes longer or until knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool at room temperature for two hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Yummy!

Monday, November 7, 2011

NaNoWriMo Day #7


That's hot chocolate in my mug--
Stephen's Gourmet chocolate candy cane
Day #7 Progress Report as of 0500 this morning

word count =  10640

I'm finding my biggest difficulty is trying to shut off that internal editor. My second biggest problem is dealing with distractions.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thursday Book Review--Midnight Omen Deja Vu by Marti Melville



Midnight Omen Deja Vu by Marti Melville  5 out of 5 stars!

Katherine, an Emergency Room RN, suffers from day dreams during her workday. Are they day dreams or are they memories?

She is led back through a past life regression where she lived in a tiny seaside village near Wales. Kathryn's grandmother teaches her how to use their gift of healing. Not long after a moonlight omen, pirates kidnap Kathryn for their Captain. She is taken aboard their ship bound for the Caribbean.

Kathryn learns that her destiny is tied to protecting the men aboard The Revenge, especially the captain. They become essential to each other. It is a pirate tale of love and sacrifice.

The author seamlessly weaves her vast amount of research into the minutest of details of Kathryn's adventure. I was on board with her. I felt the rise and fall of the ship against the waves, I smelled the salty sea air, the fetid breath of rotting pirate teeth mixed with rum, and the months of unwashed pirates. I heard the gulls, the  crash of breakers against the shore, and the perfect piratese. I saw dolphins play alongside the ship.

While I don't go in for past life regression stuff, it was a vehicle to tell this tale. This is definitely the most fun I've read this summer, so much fun. I can hardly wait to read the next.

What started out as family history research has turned into a deal for the production of a pilot for a new television series. Check out Marti's website http://www.martimelville.com/ and watch the book trailer:
http://youtu.be/JBHZN1iu9Co

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Turtle Pumpkin Pie

Turtle Pumpkin Pie
caramel drizzle
1 honey graham cracker pie crust
pecans, chopped
1 cup cold milk
2 (3.4 oz) pkgs jello vanilla pudding mix
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 (8 oz) tub cool whip

Drizzle caramel topping onto crust and sprinkle with pecans. Set aside.

Beat milk, pudding mixes, pumpkin and spices with whisk until blended. Stir in 1 1/2 cups cool whip. Spread into crust. Refigerate at least one hour. Top with remaining cool whip, caramel topping, and pecans.

Monday, October 31, 2011

'Twas the Night Before NaNo by Mary Ann

'Twas the night before NaNo and all was prepared. I'm no longer frightened, nor a little bit scared.

All my blog posts were pre-posted with care, in hopes that my followers still will be there.

I'm nestled way deep down in my bed while visions of outlines and plots run amuck in my head.

When out from my keyboard did suddenly arise
Something red and hairy with two little white eyes.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work pulling out cables and power cords with a sharp little jerk.

And I heard him exclaim as he flashed out of sight, Happy NaNo to all, and to all a good write!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Bonus Book Review--Hope's Journey by Stephanie Connelley Worlton

Hope's Journey by Stephanie Connelley Worlton

blurb--"The seemingly perfect worlds of Sydney and Alex, high school sweethearts on the brink of graduation come crashing down around them when they learn that Sydney is pregnant. They face separate journeys of self-discovery and loneliness as they try to rebuild their individual lives and shattered dreams."

It's not just another YA romance. Sydney is a straight A student and very active in the LDS faith. Alex plans to serve an LDS mission.

At the beginning, I thought this would be a difficult read, but the author's words flow seamlessly, almost effortlessly.  That is the sign of a great author--one who makes writing appear effortless.

It's not just that this is well written. This book has great potential for vast amounts of good. I think it helps us see people and situations more the way the Savior sees them.

The characters are very well developed. I related to them on two different levels.
First, it took me back to age 17, dating my first boyfriend. Although thankful we didn't cross that line--this story could've been ours just as easily.

Second, I related as a Young Women's leader. How do I help the self esteem of a Young Woman convinced that she is worthless. One particular Young Woman came to mind--a friend of my daughter. I prayed over her, talked with her, and treated her as one of my own, but she was in denial. Instead of getting to the root of the problem, her mother provided birth control. I will never know if she was able to pull out of that tailspin.

This I do know, if she'd had the chance to read Hope's Journey, I think it would've made a big difference in her life. In fact, I think every young woman of dating age, and every young man who has a girlfriend should read this book.

The author does a wonderful job dispelling the stereotype. Many good LDS kids find themselves in this situation. They're not necessarily bad kids, but normal mistake makers like the rest of us.

The author also does a great job portraying the honest emotions of both sides. Although I often found myself thinking Alex was a selfish jerk, I couldn't help but admire the courage it took to be so open and honest. Yes, Alex is fictional, but his reactions are very common in the real world.

SPOILER ALERT: My only concern is the ending. While the author acknowledges that Syd's answer is not going to be everyone else's answer, I fear that kids who read this will rationalize that things should work out this way for them without putting their own effort into finding their own answers. From my experience as a labor and deliviery nurse, Syd's answer is not typical--it's more the exception. Kids get the impression of the "happily-ever-after" ending rather than the "beginning-of-work-and-compromise-for-the-rest-of-your-life" sort of ending. The author does provide sound advice and discussion questions at the end. For me I woould've liked to read one more chapter about the work and struggle of the next several years.

Read this with your kids so they don't miss the whole point of this book. No matter how the story ends for each individual, the message of hope is the same. If you take the steps of repentance in faith, Heavenly Father and the Savior's atonement provide that hope and all of the little details will work out, regardless of those details.

Overall, this book is a definite must read for teenagers in general, but especially for those who find themselves in this position, and their parents, because it truly does bring Hope.




To read more reviews, find purchase information, and details about the book giveaway check out Stephanie's blog, Kreating Krazy, stephanieworlton.blogspot.com

Read a sample of the book at hopesjourneybook.com

Hope's Journey book trailer - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TsJ0E4ReOH8


Hope's Journey Giveaway:

As part of Hope's Journey's blog tour, we will be giving away an autographed copy of Hope's Journey to one lucky winner. To enter, simply visit the author’s blog (stephanieworlton.blogspot.com) and leave a comment on the BLOG TOUR page. Plus, for a few bonus entries, “like” Hope's Journey on Facebook or become a follower of Stephanie’s blog. It's that easy!

Contest is limited to those within the continental US. Each person is eligible for up to three (3) entries. Contest closes at 11:59pm November 14,2011. Winner will be selected by random.org then notified via email and listed at stephanieworlton.blogspot.com on November 15, 2011.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thursday Book Review--The Key of Kilenya by Andrea Pearson

The Key of Kilenya by Andrea Pearson      YA Fantasy

First off, I love the book cover. I've always had a fascination for keys, especially antique keys. I have a collection, so that all by itself grabbed my attention.

Second, I enjoyed the journal entries--a very unique way of providing the back story. I found myself caring as much about the characters in the journal entires as I did for the main characters.

Third, the action begins from about page two and never lets up. In fact, I had a hard time keeping up. I felt a lot like the main character, learning on the run.

When two of the largest, and darkest of wolves chase fourteen-year-old Jacob Clark into the forest behind his home, he leaves this world and enters the forest of another world.

With vivid descriptions, the author paints a new world of sights, sounds, smells and lots of new terrors. Jacob learns of new races of beings, and creatures, and the properties of this world while being hunted, or is he being driven?

He has to learn quickly of his own abilities--abilities he never knew he had. He has to reach deep within himself and push himself harder than he ever has before. He learns to care for others and he has to make hard choices.

The end of the book leaves some unanswered questions as the adventure continues in the next book of the series. I was a little surprised by the reaction of Jacob's parents. If he were my son, I wouldn't have taken that information so lightly.

I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

It's FREE! Want to know where to get it?
 http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/68856

To learn more about Andrea, click here:  http://www.kilenyaseries.com/

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Lucious Four-Layer Pumpkin Cake

Lucious Four-Layer Pumpkin Cake
1 pkg yellow cake mix
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin, divided
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice, divided
1 (8 oz) pkg cream chees, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 (8 oz) tub cool whip, thawed
1/4 cup caramel topping
1/3 cup pecans

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 (9-inch) round cake pans. Beat cake mix, 1 cup of the pumpkin, milk, oil, eggs, and 1 tsp of the pumpkin pie spice in a large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Pour evenly into prepared pans. Bake 20-22 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool completely on wire racks. Meanwhile, beat cream cheese in small bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until creamy. Add powdered sugar, remaining pumpkin, and remaining 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice and mix well. Stir in whipped topping.

Remove cake layer from first pan carefully. Cut the layer horizontally in half with a serrated knife. Stack the first layer on a serving plate spreading the cream cheese mixture on top. Add the next layer of cake. Spread another layer of cream cheese mixture. Remove the second cake layer from its pan and cut horizontally repeating the process. Do Not frost the top layer. Drizzle with caramel topping and pecans. Store in refrigerator.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Cast of Characters by James N. Frey

Constructing the Cast of Characters
by James N. Frey

This is by no means a conclusive list and your novel doesn't need to contain all of these characters, and some of these may be combined.

After your villain and hero have been developed, work on the cast of characters. Do their 3D profile, and have them write their own history in their own voice. Find out what they want and how they're going to get it.

See if you recognize some of these character types:

The Villain
The Hero--he is on a hero's journey.
The Hero's sidekick--he compliments the hero, has abilities the hero lacks.
The Hero's lover--can also be co-hero, he/she also compliments the hero.
The Wise One--the hero's mentor or teacher.
The Trickster or Shape Shifter--acts one way, then the opposite, often changes loyalties.
The Threshold Guardian--warns the hero not to go on the journey, is sometimes the mentor, or mother.
The Armorer--gives the hero weapons.
The Magical Helper--gives the hero magical powers, be it amulets and potions or technogadgets.
The Female as a goddess--she is kind, forgiving, and beautiful.
The Female as a whore.
The Female as an earth mother--plain, solid, and dependable.
The Female as a temptress.
The Female of business--nasty, ambitious.
The Loved One--not the lover, but a minor character, usually a relative of the hero.
The Femme Fatale--a seductress who offers love and delivers evil.
The God with Clay feet--the hero looks up to and admires this person, but he/she proves to be unworthy (I've seen this one combined with the mentor and the villain).

Think of some of your favorite books. Do you recognize character types in them?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday Morning Motivation--Positive Affirmations

Positive Affirmations is a presentation given by my friend, Sara Fitzgerald, author of Darkness Within, 2006 League of Utah Writers Writer of the Year.
Check out her website at http://www.sarafitzgerald.net/.

Positive Affirmations

I pursue my dream with enthusiasm and confidence.
The scope, power and results of my life are mine alone to choose.
I live my life with vitality and passion.
I am true to myself in all things.
Every experience and every emotion prospers me creatively.
The wellspring of my creativity flows with rich abundance.
I recognize, honor, and magnify my strengths.
I share my heart through my thoughts, my emotions, and my actions.
I now discover how wonderful I am.
I choose to love and enjoy myself and my writing.
I love and approve of myself.
I am loving and lovable.
I am at peace with my own feelings.
I create my own security.
I acknowledge and accept that I'm the creative power in my world.
I now choose to enjoy my life.
I declare peace and harmony around me.
I lovingly protect myself with thoughts of joy and peace.

This may seem self-absorbed, but unless you believe you have something to offer the world, you will be unable to give to the world. In my opinion, it is the only way to live amongst the noise and chaos.                  

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thursday Movie Reviews--Favorite Series

National Treasure   rated PG-13I

I love history. Even more, I love history and intrigue. I love that the main characters have to know things to figure out the clues.

This series has it all--mystery and suspense, spies and secret codes, romance, chase scenes, treasure, and lots of history. I love movies that teach me about history.

This is a fun romp of a history lesson. It makes me wonder how much of it is true, and that's exactly what historical fiction is supposed to do.


Pirates of the Carribean   rated PG-13

Who doesn't love a good pirate movie? High adventure, treasure, romance, scalliwags, old english/piratese, sword fights, and one of the best soundtracks out there.

Just hearing the music makes me want to swashbuckle.

I'm not as crazy about 2 and 3 as I am about the first movie of the series, but movie 4 restores the general theme of the Pirates.

Lord of the Rings   rated PG-13

Talk about epics. Rarely has a movie been made of this caliber. The imagination of the author and the movie makers completely overwhelmed me. How did they accomplish such a feeling of the ethereal? The music and the art that flowed through the entire series made me feel as if I belonged in that world.

I learned the value of persistence and loyalty by watching the characters struggle through one adventure after another. And persistence, loyalty, and sacrifice will win out over evil, not brute force, but quiet, simple, perseverance.

The battle between good and evil effects us all.

Harry Potter   rated PG-13

The only people I know who don't like Harry Potter are those who haven't read the books or seen the movies. There aren't many but they do exist. They're also the only ones who don't know what muggles are.

This series of YA books single handedly brought a revolution to the book industry. All of a sudden kids loved to read. It became cool to read. People of all ages became engrossed in a YA genre. J.K. Rowling set the reading world on its ear.

The perennial fight of good versus evil is set in a contemporary world much like our own. Both worlds overlap upon occasion.

It is a coming of age story with adventure and obstacles, frights, loyalty, heros, self-sacrifce, friendship, wit and wisdom.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Easy Peasy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Easy Peasy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Are you ready for this? There are only three ingredients!

1 (18 oz) pkg spice cake mix
1 (15 oz) solid pack pumpkin
1 (12 oz) pkg of semi-sweet chocolate chips or milk chocolate chips.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix spice cake and pumpkin until well blended. Add chocolate chips. Drop cookies onto greased baking sheet. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tuesday Tips--The Hero

Last July I posted about the construction of Villains. Today I'm posting about Heroes. This information comes from James N. Frey's
How to Write a Damn Good Mystery.

The Hero is the most important character, not because he's the main character, but because he is the character your reader will identify with most.

Keep your Villain close at hand while creating your Hero. Go through the same steps of creation. Create his biography = physiological, sociological, and psychological profile. Let him write his own life's story in his own voice.

A hero is not average or middle of the road. He should have courage, a special talent, and be good at what he does. He should be as wounded as the Villain but not damaged. He should be as clever and resourceful as the Villain. He should be willing to break the rules if necessary, and above all he is self-sacrificing, rather than self-serving as the Villain is.

I find it interesting that heroes and villains have similarities in background, but it is their choices that determine their differences, just as Professor Dumbledore said.

Think of the hero and villain combos you know. Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty, Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort, and Dudley Do Right and Snidley Whiplash.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thursday Movie Review--More Halloween Favorites

To Catch a Thief  starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly

Cary Grant plays retired jewel thief, John Robie, nicknamed "The Cat." He leads a quiet life now, tending his vineyards in the French Riviera. A series of robberies that take place copy cats his m.o. and makes the French Police believe he is out of retirement.

Robie is able to give the police the slip with the help of some old friends. His plan is to prove his innocence by catching the new cat burglar in the act. He enlists the aid of an insurance adjustor who reluctantly gives Robie a list of the most expensive jewels currently on the Riviera. Jessie Stevens and her daughter, Francie (played by Grace Kelly), are the first on the list. Robie strikes up an acquaintance with the two.

Robie and Francie fall for each other. After a night of passion, Jessie's jewels are stolen and Francie thinks Robie took advantage. Robie has to go back on the lam. He stakes out a rooftop to catch the new burglar, a burglar who rivals him in cleverness and agility.

This is a clever suspense that kept me guessing until the end. I enjoy gathering clues and trying to figure it out. Of course, if I figure it out, I say it was predictable. This movie did a good job leading me down one path only to find out the truth at the end.

Arsenic and Old Lace  starring Cary Grant

Mortimer Brewster, played by Cary Grant, has written several books describing marriage as an old-fashioned superstition. He falls in love with Elaine, the girl next door. They marry on Halloween. Immediately after the wedding Mortimer returns to his old family home to visit the elderly, eccentric relatives who raised him, two lovable aunts, Abby and Martha, and their brother, Teddy (who thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt).

Mortimer finds a corpse hidden in a window seat and assumes Teddy committed murder while delusional, but the aunts explain they are responsible--"It's one of our charities." They explain, most innocently, that they have developed the very bad habit of ending the suffering of lonely old bachelors by serving them elderberry wine spiked with arsenic, strychnine, and "just a pinch of cyanide." The bodies are buried in the basement by Teddy, who believes he is burying yellow fever victims in the locks of the Panama Canal. Complications set in when another Brewster brother returns home with a corpse of his own to hide.

 Macabre humor and suspense play against each other overlapping action and clever dialogue. Pay close attention or you may miss a quick joke. I couldn't help but laugh and yell, "watch out", at the same time. By the end of the movie I was out of breath.

Charade  starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn

Regina Lambert (Hepburn) meets a charming stranger, Peter Joshua (Grant) on a skiing holiday. She returns to Paris to ask her husband, Charles for a divorce. When she arrives home all of her possessions are gone. Her luxurious home is completely stripped and her husband is missing. The police notify her that Charles had been thrown from a moving train--murdered. They give her his travel bag.

At Charles's funeral, Regina notices three odd visitors who do things to Charles to verify he is dead.

Later, Regina is summoned to the U.S. Embassy where she meets CIA administrator, Hamilton Bartholmew (Walter Matthau). He informs Regina that Charles was involved in a theft during WWII--$250,000.00 in gold. Charles and a group of OSS were to deliver the gold the French Resistance. They buried it and then ambushed by a German patrol. One of the OSS men was left to die. Charles double crossed the rest of the group and went back for the gold. The U.s. government wants the money back. Bartholomew insists Regina has the money, even if she doesn't know it.

Peter offers to help Regina. While he admits to being after the money as well, he is actually in league with the OSS group under a pseudonym of Alexander Dyle, brother of the man left to die. None of the men trust each other and they begin turning up dead.

Who can Regina trust? With so many plot twists and turns, I felt like I was on a crazy roller coaster ride. This movie kept me guessing to the very end.


North by Northwest  starring Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint

Cary Grant plays an advertising executive by the name of Roger Thornhill, who, by chance, suffers a case of mistake identity. He gets kidnapped and taken to the home of a United Nations delegate by the name of Lester Townsend. Thornhill is interrogated by a man he assumes is Townsend (actually a foreign spy named Vandamm), where he repeatedly denies he is George Kaplan.

Vandamm orders Thornhill's disposal. The thugs attempt to stage a fatal car accident, only Thornhill gets away to be arrested later for drunk driving. Unable to get anyone to believe him he decides to do some of his own investigating.

He goes to Kaplan's hotel room where he answers the phone. Of course, the bad guys are convinced he is Kaplan. Narrowly avoiding recapture Thornhill takes a taxi to the General Assembly building of the United Nations where Townsend is due to deliver a speech. He meets Townsend face to face and surprised to find that he is not the man who interrogated him. Before Thornhill can get any more answers, one of the thugs throws a knife, sticking Townsend in the back and he dies in Thornhill's arms. Without thinking, Thornhill removes the knife, making it appear as if he is the killer. He goes on the run again.

This movies chases all over the eastern half of the United States with one of the most unique chase scenes ever filmed--across the faces of Mount Rushmore. Alfred Hitchcock was a master of nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat suspense. Every time I watch this movie I wonder how is Cary Grant going to make it out this mess?

Wait Until Dark  starring Audrey Hepburn

Montreal--a woman named Lisa watches an old man sew bags of heroin in the cloth body of an old-fashioned doll. A man watches her as she leaves the apartment. Lisa takes the doll with her on a flight to New York.

When she disembarks she gives the doll to a man she met on the plane for safe keeping. He is a professional photographer named Sam Hendrix. Sam lives in a basement apartment with his wife, Susy, who was recently blinded in a car accident. Lisa calls Sam asking for the doll back, but he's unable to find it.

Later, a couple of con men watch Sam's apartment until Sam and Susy leave. The con men are supposed to meet Lisa at the apartment, instead they are met by the man who was watching Lisa, Harry Roat. None of them find the doll but the two con men discover Lisa's body hanging in a garment bag. Since the only fingerprints in the apartment belong to the con men, Roat blackmails them into getting rid of Lisa'a body and helping him find the doll.

So the bad guys leave to dispose of the body. In the meantime Susy returns home none-the-wiser. Her neighbors leave for the weekend, and Sam leaves the next morning for a business trip--the first time Susy has been left alone since her accident. She's still learning to navigate her new world of darkness.

Once she is alone the three bad guys start working on her in order to gain entry into the apartment. They pose as different people. They tell her a story that makes her think Sam is involved with Lisa's murder and persuade her to help them find the doll. Susy becomes suspicious.

Gloria, a neighbor girl who the Hendrix's pay to run errands for Susy has a bad habit of going in and out of Susy's apartment without Susy knowing she's there. Gloria sneaks into the apartment with the doll she stole some time earlier. Susy discovers the doll.

The suspense builds gradually as Susy becomes aware that these men are not who they say. I am always amazed at her resourcefulness for being someone still learning how to cope with her disability. She thinks through problems quickly instead of feeling sorry for herself.

The movie is full of awesome fright moments that catch you off guard. One of my favorite things to do is to watch this in the dark, and wait for the right moment to grab one of my kids and scream.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thursday Movie Review--My Top 4 Favorite Halloween Movies

 There are a million and one Halloween movies out there from Disney to slashers. These are my favorite four movies. I get them out every year at this time and watch them again.

 #4   The Man Who Knew Too Little      rated PG  1997  94 min.
Bill Murray plays Wallace Ritchie, a naive American visiting his brother in London.

He thinks that everything happening around him is part of an audience-participation dinner theatre. Not knowing the danger he is really in, he plays the cool, collected, super spy who holds the fate of the cold war in his hands.

It is rated PG for language, adult themes, and a little bit of scary. This is the type of movie where the ridiculous happens but you laugh yourself silly anyway. 


#3  Hocus Pocus     rated PG   1993   96 min.

Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker star as three 17th century Salem witches brought back from the dead by an ancient spell unwittingly conjured by a boy named Max, who is trying to impress a girl.

Max and his friends have to find a way to reverse the curse and send the witches back before the three lovelies curse the town and steal the youth of all of Salem's children.

This is a fun Halloween movie with great music but may be too scary for small children.

#2   The Burbs   rated PG   1989   102 min.

Tom Hanks plays average, suburbanite Ray Peterson who starts a week of vacation at home. 

But when Ray and two of his buddies notice the strange goings-on of the creepy, next-door neighbors, his vacation is anything but restful. When one of their other neighbors goes missing, the three buddies make plans to investigate. 

Each of the characters in this cul-de-sac have their own humorous quirks and provide slapstick comedy against a backdrop of creepy suspense.

This is a fun, fun movie--a must see for Halloween!

My all-time favorite scary movie to watch at Halloween is . . .
What Lies Beneath   rated PG-13   2000   130 min.

Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer play a happily married couple who renovate their dream home at the lake. Claire (Michelle Pfeiffer) begins seeing ghostly images and mysterious voices. She is certain that all is not well with the new neighbors next door.

After some surprising twists and turns, Claire and her husband eventually get to the bottom of it all.

The suspense in this movie is so well done. It is the most intense thriller/mystery since Alfred Hitchcock. It comes with several good fright moments that knocked my socks off. If you're prone to nightmares, do not watch this movie in the dark. My neighbor across the street watched this movie in the middle of the afternoon, with all of her curtains open and lights on, and still could not get through it. But if you like a good scare, this is a classic. There is blood but not the gore of a slasher movie.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Sandwich Cookies

1 pkg pumpkin spice bread mix
2 eggs
2/3 cup shortening

Mix well. Drop by melon-scoop balls 2 inches apart.
Bake at 350 degrees for 9 minutes.

Frost with vanilla or cream cheese ready to spread frosting.

Enjoy!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thursday Book Review--Enna Burning by Shannon Hale


Enna Burning is the second, more dramatic installment of the Bayern series.

Enna became Ani's best friend and secret keeper in The Goose Girl. In this story, Enna discovers her brother, Leifer's secret--making fire--only he can't control it.

Bayern goes to war with the neighboring kingdom of Tira. Fire consumes Leifer on the battlefield. Enna finds the instructions for making fire on Leifer. She decides to only use this power for good, meaning she continues to fight Tira for Leifer's sake.

Unfortunately, she has difficulty controlling the need to burn. She goes on secret raids and sets fire to Tiran camps and villages. Her friends warn her that she is out of control, but takes matters into her own hands.

She is taken captive by a Tiran who convinces her that he loves her and tries to manipulate her. She finally escapes with the help of her true friends.

Enna burns nearly a tenth of the Tiran Army before they surrender bringing an end to the war. The burning nearly consumes her because she lost control.

She wakes up in the palace, dying of a fever. I order to save Enna, Ani (now called Isi), takes her on a journey to learn from a people who have survived fire-speaking. Isi is also at risk from her ability to wind speak, to the point that Enna is more concerned for Isi's well being than for her own. She senses that Isi  is at risk from more than just the wind-speak.

I like how the characters develop together in this story. Isi and Enna are humble enough to learn that they both need each other. Each is the key to the other's survival. How many times in real life do we think we are in control, whether it's pride, money, or whatever? How many times are we rescued by friends and family, the ones who love us unconditionally in spite of the mess we've made?

And Enna's love interest, Finn--goes from timid, gentle forest boy to Bayern's finest swordsman. In the end he gets his girl.

I give this book 4 1/2 stars out of 5.

Book #3 is River Secrets and Book #4 is Forest Born.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Quote of the Day


"The reason a dog has so many friends is that he wags his tail instead of his tongue." ~Anonymous

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Taco Soup


1 lb fried hamburger, broken up
1 can diced tomatoes
1 onion diced
1 green pepper diced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can red beans, drained and rinsed
1 can corn
1/2 envelope of taco seasoning
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (half that if dried)

This cooks up quickly on the stove (hint: my daughter likes to cook up her hamburger and onions ahead of time and freeze in one pound bags), or you can throw all of the ingredients in your crockpot and set on low for about 4 hours.

To serve: top each bowl with a small dollup of sour cream, grated cheese (colby-jack), and crushed tortilla chips. Enjoy!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday Morning Motivation


"To you women of today, who are old or young, may I suggest to you that you write, that you keep journals, that you express your thoughts on paper. Writing is a great discipline. It is a tremendous education effort. It will assist you in various ways, and you will bless the lives of many--now and in the years to come, as you put on paper some of your experiences and some of your musings."  ~Gordon B. Hinckley

President Hinckley--always a favorite of mine. He was a champion for women everywhere. I had no idea how noble writing is.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Quote of the Day


"Don't you just love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouguet of newly-sharpened pencils--if I knew your name and address."

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thursday Book Review--The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale


The Goose Girl is adapted from a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. It is the first of four books in the Bayern series.

Shannon Hale does an extraordinary job of fleshing out the details of this story. It is also a good study of how to write a novel. The characters are well developed and they grow as the conflict intensifies.

It is a coming of age tale centered around the Princess of Kildenree. Her official name and title is the Crown Princess Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee. Her nickname is Ani.

Ani is timid and unsure of herself, living in her mother's shadow. She doubts her own gifts, and, in fact, is not aware of all of her gifts.

After her beloved father, the King, dies, she is forced into a marriage of alliance with the Crown Prince of Bayern, a full forest away from Kildenree.

On her journey through the forest to Bayern, Ani meekly puts up with the mutiny of her best friend and maid-in-waiting, Selia, along with most of the guards. Ani is forced to trade places with Selia and she is afraid to fight back.

As the story progresses, the conflict increases. With the help of her new, forest friends (people born in the forest are considered second class citizens in Bayern), she manages to hide her true identity and escape from Selia's clutches.

Ani learned animal-speak at home. She develops her innate ability to wind-speak. She falls in love with one of the royal guard. By the end of the story she becomes assertive and is able to do what needs to be done to save both kingdoms from war and expose Selia for the traitor she is. I won't spoil all of the surprises.

It is very well written and I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

In the original Brothers Grimm version, the King tricks the false princess into naming her own punishment for betrayal. The false princess decides on a particularly cruel and brutal sentence. The King reveals her betrayal and her own-named punishment is carried out.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cheese Soup

1 onion diced
3 stalks celery diced
2 cups carrots peeled and diced
4 cups potatoes peeled and diced
Cook vegetables in 1 quart chicken stock.
In another saucepan make roux with 1 stick of butter and 1 cup flour. Mix well. When vegetables are cooked until tender, take them off the heat. Add roux and mix well to prevent lumps. When roux has dissolved into chicken stock, add 1 quart milk and mix well. Return to medium heat and stir continually as soup thickens. Add 1 tsp paprika and salt and pepper to taste. Just before serving add 3 cups grated cheese (cheddar or colby-jack). Fold in melting cheese. This soup is perfect when served in homemade bread bowls (store bought works well, too).

Friday, September 9, 2011

Quote of the Day


"Happiness often sneaks through a door you didn't know you left open!"  ~Anonymous


I love Mary Engelbreit art. It's old-fashioned and whimsical, and she always puts such uplifting quotes with her pictures. They bring me a lot of joy all by themselves.

I find myself envying the talents of people like Mary Engelbreit, Sandra Boynton , and J.K. Rowling. My talent is being able to appreciate their work.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thursday Book Review--The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

I'm fairly certain that most, if not all, fans of Harry Potter have read The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by J.K. Rowling.

I was absolutely wonder-struck by the imagination that went into this wee little book, translated from the ancient runes by Hermione Granger, with commentary by Professor Albus Dumbledore, and footnotes by J.K. Rowling.

These tales seem more graphic than Muggle fairy tales, but if you knew what I know about some of our traditional fairy tales and nursery rhymes, you would understand how truly graphic (and violent) they are, and how similar they are to Wizarding tales.

I'm always amazed when authors construct worlds so complete that they come with thousands of years of ancient history, like The Lord of the Ring series; and to be able to conjure five stories that teach values to any world and provide academic commentary in the voice of one of her characters is beyond magic. The reality and continuity of the Wizarding world remains intact.

I remember when word about this book came out, aside from dreaming about owning one of the leather-bound specials (that I could never afford), my first instinct was to find a way to somehow read the stories themselves. I read the review written by Amazon and wished I had been lucky enough to peruse those pages. A year or two later, Muggles everywhere were able to read, at last, The Tales of Beedle the Bard.