Monday, October 28, 2013

Candy Corn Rice Krispie Treats

Aren't these just the cutest things? Seriously!

I saw the recipe for these darling treats and just had to whip some up! Nevermind that they're packed  with sugar... they're just too cute!
And let me tell you... if you can melt butter, you can make these little guys...

Find the Recipe {here} and check out the video below to see them made in real time. Happy Harvest!

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Miner's Lady by Tracie Peterson: A Book Review

The Miner’s Lady by Tracie Peterson

When Chantel Panetta's younger sister claims to be in love with Orlando Calarco, Chantel knows there is no hope. The Panettas and Calarcos have been sworn enemies for decades, and young love cannot heal the deep wounds between the two iron-mining families. Yet, unable to resist Isabella's pleas, Chantel agrees to help her sister spend time with Orlando...only to have a run-in with Dante, Orlando's brother. The older, more handsome one.
Chantel can't deny the attraction that flares when she's with Dante. But when a tragedy occurs at the mine, is there any hope that the hatred that has simmered between these two families might be resolved? Or will Chantel's hope for love be buried amidst decades of misunderstanding?

It’s no secret that I’m a huge Tracie Peterson fan. Her ability to intertwine historical elements with fiction is always surprising. The Miner’s Lady, book three in the Land of Shining Water series, is no exception. I was a bit concerned with the storyline as the beginning played out a bit like Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet – the Panetta’s and Calarco’s are Italian even! – but the story did become its own.
I will say that I struggled with the Italian background of these two families. Ms. Peterson’s signature accents and character-specific colloquialisms didn’t quite strike the same cord as her previous two – The Icecutter’s Daughter and  The Quarryman’s Bride.
The easy-read novel did have a few twists I wasn’t anticipating that literally made me gasp aloud as I read – Ms. Peterson definitely has a knack for adding adventure to a genre that is generally even-keeled.
I loved Chantel: strong, opinionated, passionate and Orlando: stubborn, firm, caring – and their slow burning attraction. The author’s way with words always add to moments both tender and tough.
And, can we talk about the cover for a moment. This series has the most striking cover art! That rustic coal shack nestled beneath a brilliant sky – makes the coal mining town of Ely seem like quite the destination.
Overall, the Land of Shining Water has not disappointed but my favorite, by far, is still The Icecutter’s Daughter… I’m not sure if this is just a story that’s dear to my heart or if the cold Minnesota winter seemed so like my own here in Wisconsin, but nonetheless, Tracie Peterson's latest series should find their way to your To-Be-Read pile.

***With special thanks to Bethany House Publishers for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Snickerdoodle Cookies

As the crisp Fall air wafted in through my open windows this morning, I spun my home into a simple Autumn retreat... a little late, I know, but I've been busy ;)
I love the beautiful colors of fall - deep reds, bright oranges, vibrant yellows...
And now, as distinct cinnamon-y, sugar-y swirls of freshly baked snickerdoodle cookies collide with that same crisp autumn air, I can almost feel the heat from the hearth of a robust fire and the crackly-pop of gathered kindling... wonderful how smells transport you, isn't it?

Snickerdoodles: A Recipe from Early Twentieth Century America

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat over to 350 degrees.
Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl.
In a separate bowl, beat together the butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar on medium speed  until pale and fluffy - about 3 minutes.
Mix in eggs.
Reduce speed to low and gradually mix in flour mixture.

Stir together remaining sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.
Shape dough in to 1 3/4 inch balls and roll in cinnamon sugar.
Space approximately 3 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paaper.

Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges are golden. 12-15 minutes.
Let cool on baking sheets on wire rack.

Makes about 1 1/2 dozen. 
Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.

Martha Stewart's Cookies 2008

Notes from my kitchen:
1. Beating the sugar and butter until pale and fluffy is REALLY important with these cookies - under mixing will lead to dense cookies.
2. I used my cookie scoop to keep sizes even and ended up with about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.
3. My electric oven needed about 14 minutes per batch.
4. I promise you that one pan at a time, rotating halfway through the cooking time will make your cookies oodles better! Definitely worth the extra oven time!

These would be marvelously tasty served alongside spiced apple cider I think, don't you!? 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Forget Me Not: A Cover Reveal & Giveaway!

I am so pleased to be part of the cover reveal for Amber Stokes latest, Forget Me Not!

Oh. My. Goodness. Isn't it lovely? The setting is simply breathtaking.
Lena Goldfinch is the mastermind behind the design. She's also an author...
Talk about talented!

When you've come back from your temporary relocation to those majestic hills (and have come to terms with the fact that you reside...ahem... below sea level and, are no longer living nestled in the treetops of the mountains in Colorado, soaking in the sunshine and the crisp air and the marvelous evening-painted sky!..amazing how the perfect cover can whisk you away to another time and place, isn't it!? Ooops! I got a little carried away... let's get back on track here!) keep reading for more about the book and it's author:

Forget Me Not by Amber Stokes:
Old hurts, new betrayals, and a love that survives them all...
Summer 1885
A startling revelation sends Elizabeth Lawson escaping into a stormy night - and tosses her into the arms of a young mountain man with secrets of his own. When he offers to take her to the Nevada mining town where her long-lost brother lives, she accepts. Suspicions and uncertainties are pushed aside as she struggles to forge a future for herself by meeting her past.
David has been hiding from his painful memories for years. The solitude and wildness of the Rocky Mountains are challenge and comfort enough for him - until Elizabeth's arrival. Fueled by anger and a sense of obligation, he strives to take control of his new situation...only to find control slipping from his grasp with each new emotion Elizabeth evokes in him.
When their journey leads them on unexpected paths, can two lonely hearts find the strength to remember the good amid the heartbreak?

Prequel to Bleeding Heart Inspirational Historical Romance
 Check out my review of Bleeding Heart {here}

Amber's words were beautifully broken and gently hopeful all at the same time in Bleeding Heart and I look forward to another excellent read that doesn't shy away from the heart of the matter. 

More about the author:
Amber Stokes has a Bachelor of Science degree in English and a passion for the written word - from blogging to writing poetry, short stories, and novels. After her brief time at college in Oregon, she is now back home among the redwoods of Northern California, living life one day at a time and pursuing her passion via freelance editing and self-publishing. You can connect with Amber on her blog, Seasons of Humility.
You can find all the latest news about Forget Me Not, along with book extras, at the Forget Me Not blog.

And, last but not least, make sure the enter your name below for a chance to win forget-me-not note cards (set of three) from Carol Sapp Watercolors! Giveaway limited to U.S. residents only.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Hunger Games: Thoughts and Theories

First of all, I am WAY late to the game on reading these books. I’ll explain that as I go, I think. 

Let me begin by stating that I had A LOT of preconceived opinions about this series – and why I was never going to read them. A few have changed, a few have been shattered. However, I will stand by my comments on the suitability of these books for children.
They’re not.
The End. No more discussion. They’re not for children. Your fifth grader should not be reading these books. Your eight grader should not be reading these books. Your high school freshman should have your APPROVAL to read these books – and you should probably read them first to make sure. I’ve heard many a parent say they could not get through the first chapters of this book and turn around and hand them to their children to read. I don’t get it.
Granted, I’m not a parent and I’m not your kid’s parent and you ultimately know what is best for your children. But hear me out for just a second on a few of the actions behind the theme of this book.

Kids killing kids. For sport. For entertainment.
Politics. A sickeningly real parallel to the politics in our own world today.
Violence. Plenty of it.
Drunkenness. Rather frequently.
An attack on materialism.  That may or may not be so obvious to a 12 year old.

Now – here’s where I may surprise you.

I REALLY loved the series. Really, really loved the series. Like – I borrowed them from my public library and would go out and purchase them today if I had the time to add them to my own bookshelves.
You see, the reasons I think these books are not appropriate for younger readers are some of the very same reasons that I liked these books for older (adult) readers.

The Hunger Games:
We’re introduced to The Games for the first time. And horrified by it as well. Honestly, I would not allow my imagination to take me in to the heights of the violence, hatred, and utter disrespect for human life found in them. As a reader, I literally censored my imagination through these bits. I will say, however, that the message of killing for entertainment rings loud and clear. And many a parallel can be pulled from our current world. And, while I’m pretty conservative on the political side of things I have a tendency to swing violently to the left when it comes to PEOPLE. People that are suffering, people cloaked in poverty, and the political agendas that exploit them.
We’re also introduced to Katniss. The story is told from her perspective and her character is engaging: the perfectly flawed heroine that we all love to love. Katniss from Part One, however, goes through quite the transformation as we close the final pages of Part Three in Mockingjay.
And, as Katniss and Peeta enter The Games an important (almost) side note rises to the surface… the shambles of district 12, the sheer desperation of its people, prove to reveal the materialism, excess, and superficiality of the Capitol.

Catching Fire:
Honestly, book two of the series is a bit of a blur to me and felt more like a means to book three than a standalone title. Of course, it’s NOT a standalone title. Instead, it paves the way – albeit a bit slowly – for the final installment, Mockingjay.
A repeat of The Games is quite cruel – for the characters and the reader but I was amazed at the imagination behind the arena of the Quarter Quell – at the ability of Ms. Collins to spin a seemingly repetitive story in to one of intrigue instead of boredom.
Here, we learn more of Gale and his care toward Katniss and a kind of love triangle develops. Normally, I hate these, but I was just as lost as Katniss in trying to choose.
As more and more of the political motives are revealed behind the theme, more and more of the attributes (good and bad) of the characters are brought to light.
And, a shocking end catapults the reader right in to Mockinjay.

The third, and final, book of the Hunger Games series brings about the best and worst of Katniss, Peeta, and Gale.
I’d say that the underlying frustration with this book is the constant nagging thought that something not quite right is going on behind the scenes – just out of both the starring characters’ and the reader’s grasp. Never knowing who to trust. Always checking shadows.
And still, the tension between Peeta and Gale. The knowledge that Katniss will, somehow, have to choose. Or, as was my fear, will Ms. Collins just blow them all the bits in some Capitol explosion and end it all right then and there??? The fear of this very thing kept me from finishing this book for well over a week. Collins doesn’t seem overly compassionate toward her characters (or her reader) throughout the books and my concern seemed valid.
As Katniss desperately tries (and fails) to keep from being a pawn in everyone’s personal version of The Games we see a bit more of the darkness of her character revealed – a few more flaws – a few more cracks in the pot – a few too many publically revealed honest remarks that often get her in to trouble. But that is the charm of the story, really. That Katniss, face of the rebels, inspiration to the masses, really doesn’t have it all together. Is lost and confused and may just be more of a puppet than even she suspects. That she, too, is growing and learning and finding thoughts of her own.
I do feel that the final pages were a bit hurried. The story-line wanes on into the very last chapters and everything is wrapped up rather quickly in about 5 pages or so. 15 may have been in order for more of a neatly packaged conclusion. However, Ms. Collins leaves just enough undone for the reader to find a sense of satisfaction and still the need for imagination. Normally, this kind of thing would drive me insane. But, in the case of the Mockingjay, I was satisfied to fill in the bits and pieces on my own. I wonder if this was more intentional than not as the reader must decide where their own alliances lie. 

I was quite affected by Suzanne Collins words. Which, in the world of writing, is the point. So, I suppose, she’s done her job well.
I’m not an end-of-the book crier and can only recall 1 other time in which real tears fell as I closed the pages on a series. The Hunger Games Trilogy makes two.

The beginning: Shocking. Violent. Unjust.
The middle: Valiant. Revealing. Raw.
And the end: Simple. Bittersweet…. And Highly Effective.

Whew! Thanks for hanging in there with me!

I realize this is not a complete review of the series by any means but that wasn’t my intent, really. To see another  reader’s perspective, hop on over to Seasonof Humility and check out Amber’s thoughts on the books. Her review inspired me to read the series, actually! 

Did you catch on to the Hunger Games early ? Or, did you read it late in the game like me? Love the books? Hate them? I’d love to hear from you, let me know what you thought in the comments below.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Monday Favorites

So I meant to have a brilliant series of posts for you on “Intentional Dining” this week.
I started one episode of SVU yesterday and didn’t leave the couch for …ahem… SEVERAL hours. As in, I may have missed the entire lunch AND dinner hour.
What is it with that show that hooks you in? Seriously, is there some sort of underlying hypnosis in the background music or something?

Anyhoo… I hope to get those posts up and rolling next week… or maybe the next… oy!

Until then – here’s a few of my favorites lately to tide you over:


In case you hadn’t noticed already, I’m mildly fanatic about Kate from The SmallThings Blog. I’ve been rocking this hairstyle for far too many days in a row. But, it’s simple and quick and very chic!


“Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction. Break the habit. Talk about your joys.” 
Love this!


Have I mentioned before that Erin Bethea is my new favorite actress? No? Well – she is. (Kirk Cameron’s wife in Fireproof for those of you who are lost…) Anyway, her latest film This Is Our Time is a wonderful story. But don’t say I didn’t warn you to keep the Kleenex nearby!


In case you missed it, check out my latest review here. A great autumn read from Rene Gutteridge!


And, finally, here's a smile for your Monday... she. is. too. cute. !!!

I'd love to hear from you... Share your latest favorites in the comments below!

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