Monday, April 30, 2012

Book Giveaway at Linda Weaver Clarke's Blog

To celebrate the upcoming release of her new book, Desert Intrigue, Linda is holding an e-Book giveaway that starts tomorrow for one of the other three books in the series. I have the first two books, but I certainly wouldn't mind adding the third one to my collection. I'm hoping to read them this summer while we're in North Carolina.



Blog: Linda Weaver Clarke’s A Family Friendly Blog

Title of book: Anasazi Intrigue, Mayan Intrigue, or Montezuma Intrigue

Author of book: Linda Weaver Clarke

Genre: Mystery/Adventure

Open to: International

Giveaway Dates: May 1 - 7


You've Got Mail Mondays



Not much to report for this week's You've Got Mail Mondays. My Gardening How-To magazine came from the National Home Gardening Club. I have to admit I don't have the greenest thumb, and I have absolutely no eye for garden design. Anything I have done in the yard has come with a great deal of help. Even then, there are plenty of failures.

Right now, I'm trying to increase the curb appeal of the house. The plan--which never seems to go well--is to change the shrubs in front, add some flowers on one side, rejuvenate my shade garden, which consists mostly of hostas right now, and maybe put in a rain garden.

I'm not one for coincidences. I've seen articles on rain gardens twice in the past month, so I'm looking at putting one in front of our master bedroom, which is on the first floor. This month's article, "Build a Rain Garden," by Marty Wingate, talks about these gardens which are as this article describes, "depressions in the landscape that contain permeable soil and plants." Rain from the roof is channeled into the depression. The garden is designed in such a way that the water moves into and through the ground instead of running over the top. "The soil and plants in the rain garden filter the water, helping remove pollutants before the water finds its way to the water table."

Wingate's article talks about rain garden basics, offers a list of plants for rain gardens, and also has diagrams. I don't think this is a project for this year, but maybe next.

The latest Oriental Trading® Fun and Faith catalog came last week took. Luckily, right now, we have most of the craft supplies for vacation Bible school on hand. I might pick up a few craft items for the kids at Sunday school, though. Sand art has always been popular with the kids.

The UPS guy brought my grape and blueberry plants. We got a sudden frost, so I haven't put them in yet. Hopefully tomorrow, as the temperatures are due to warm up. Frost at the end of April. How ridiculous.

Hope your postal carrier brought you some neat things last week.

Blogging from A to Z Challenge - Z



The Blogging from A to Z Challenge ends today with the letter Z. I hope you've enjoyed my month of posts. We'll be getting back to a more normal schedule tomorrow.

I have to admit I like my zucchini in a less than healthy way--fried or in bread. I do, however, eat it as a side dish from time to time.  According to Eat This!, there are several benefits to eating zucchini. The dietary fiber helps lower cholesterol and prevent carcinogens from settling in the colon. Zucchini is a good source of vitamins A and C, which are antioxidants that can help fight certain cancers and also act as an anti-inflammatory. The magnesium and potassium found in zucchini can help prevent heart attack and stroke, and also help lower blood pressure.

The first year I put in a vegetable garden, I picked up a cookbook on canning and preserving--something I had never done before in my life. American Country Living Canning and Preserving: Techniques, Recipes, Uses, And More by Linda Ferrari has a great recipe for zucchini pickles. I never thought of making pickles like this, but they sound yummy.

  • 6 cups sliced green zucchini
  • 6 cups sliced yellow zucchini
  • 2 large onions
  • 1 each yellow, red, and green peppers
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 cups vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons mustard seed
  • 2 tablespoons celery seed
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
Wash and cut vegetables. Slice onions thin and make the zucchini about 1/2 inch thick. Cover zucchini, onion, and peppers with water to which salt has been added. Let stand 2 hours. Drain and rinse vegetables. Combine the sugar, water, vinegar, and spices and bring to a boil. When it boils add the vegetables and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Pack vegetables into hot jars and fill with the hot liquid, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Release air bubbles, clean rims, and seal. Process in water bath canner for 10 minutes.

Makes 6 to 7 pints.







Saturday, April 28, 2012

Blogging from A to Z Challenge - Y



Yams, or sweet potatoes as many call them, are in season from October through December. According to The World's Healthiest Foods, they are about 200 different varieties of yams.

Yams are said to protect against cardiovascular disease, because they contain vitamin B6. They are also a good source of potassium. Some believe wild yam can be a natural alternative to hormonal replacement for menopausal women.

My daughter-in-law usually makes yams if she and my son are here for Thanksgiving dinner. Here's a recipe for a sweet potato casserole I found at allrecipes.com.

Prep time: 10 min
Bake time:  35 min

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, softened 1 (40 ounce) can cut yams, drained
1/2 cup whole berry cranberry sauce, drained
1 cup mini marshmallows

1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. Mix the flour, brown sugar, oats, and cinnamon together in a bowl; cut the butter into the mixture until crumbled.
3. Combine the yams and cranberries in a larger bowl. Stir 1 cup of the flour mixture into the yams and cranberries; pour the mixture into the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish and top with the remaining flour mixture.
4. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes; top with the marshmallows and return to the oven until the marshmallows are browned, about 10 minutes more.

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. This challenge ends on Monday. It's been fun. I hope you're enjoying it.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Listen to Tunes in Your Pool

When we were kids, we would have to carry our heavy boom box out to the deck to listen to tunes by the pool. God forbid it got wet. The only other solution was for us to drag home stereo speakers over to open windows and crank up the volume. Those days are over!

I’m not much of a technology person, but sometimes there are products that are too neat not to take a look at. The PoolTunes™ Floating Speaker by Swimline is one of those products. You can plug your iPod™ into the transmitter and have music while you entertain or lounge in your pool.

This floating speaker is waterproof to three feet under water and for up to 30 minutes. It has a three-watt full range speaker that is compatible with most digital music players with standard mini-jack output and has a rocker-style volume control. It also has a LED pool light with on-off control for nighttime use. The wireless transmitter has a range of 100 feet. This package includes floating speaker light, radio transmitter, three-foot stereo mini jack cable, and instructions. The speaker requires 4 C batteries (not included). The transmitter requires 4 AAA batteries (not included).
You can buy the PoolTunes Floating Speaker at PoolGear Plus®, the fastest-growing catalog and Internet company in the US.


This post sponsored by PoolGear Plus.

Free for All Friday - Tazo Tea Giveaway


Today is Free for All Friday!  While I don't always plan giveaways, today I wanted to get back into the swing of this popular regular feature. It's not even a book prize this week. :)

I have for one lucky winner, two boxes of Tazo® tea. I've always been a big tea drinker. The Lil Princess drinks a cup of decaffeinated tea before bed each night.

For this giveaway, I have one box of Tazo Calm™ and one box of Tazo Passion™ herbal tea.
Calm is a blend of chamomile blossoms, lemon balm leaf, pink rose petals, spearmint and sarsaparilla. Passion has luscious hibiscus flowers, lemongrass and rose hips blended with the flavors of mango and passion fruit.

Use the Rafflecopter form below for your chance to win.

Good luck!

Blogging from A to Z Challenge - X



Did you know these existed? I didn't until today. According to recipetips.com, this very hot yellow chile adds flavor to food or can be used as a garnish.

Peppers are rich in vitamins A, C and K. The World's Healthiest Foods says the "fire" in chili peppers comes from capsaicin, which "is being studied as an effective treatment for sensory nerve fiber disorders, including pain associated with arthritis, psoriasis, and diabetic neuropathy." Capsaicin is also said to help clear mucus from your nose and lungs, boost immunity, and can help prevent ulcers. According to this article I found on About.com, capsaicin also helps to keep food from spoiling. Food cooked with chiles is said to last longer. Hmmm....

Now, I love peppers, but I decide not to grow them this year because I am the only one in the house who eats them. I might do it next year if this year's harvest is good.

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Only two days left!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Blogging from A to Z Challenge - W


We're coming ever close to the end of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Today we're talking about another one of my favorite fruits--watermelon.

It just wouldn't be a summertime New England picnic without this great fruit. Coming in various shapes and sizes, sliced or chunked, you can't beat the taste of a ripened watermelon; though they can be a bit messy.

We're growing watermelon in the garden this year. Pumpkins were tough to grow, but that was in my normal bed, so we'll see if the raised beds make any difference. We also planted another member of the Cucurbitaceae family, squash.

According to The World's Healthiest Foods, watermelon is a good source of vitamins A and C. The vitamin C and beta-carotene found in this sweet fruit can be helpful in reducing heart disease, the risk of colon cancer, and the "airway spasm that occurs in asthma." It's also known to alleviate some of the symptoms of osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Lacking energy lately? Watermelon is also a good source of vitamin B, which is tied to energy production.

One of the best creations after seedless grapes has to be the seedless watermelon. Our family loves them. We often bring one to summertime potlucks at church or picnics. When the grocery store starts carrying watermelons and corn on the cob, I know summer can't be too far away.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Getting Back to Normal



After the Blogging from A to Z Challenge is over, things should be getting back to normal around here. I'll have themed posts Monday through Friday. I haven't figured out what I'll do for Thursdays yet, but we'll see how it all works out.

I hope you've been enjoying the posts for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. I wasn't sure what I would talk about when I started, so I think it worked out well.

I am thinking of doing two things in the near future:

  1. Switching the title of the blog,
  2. Possibly switching to WordPress
I'm on the fence about the second one, but the first one is almost a definite. Problem is, I would also like to change the URL, which means starting all over again in many ways. Decisions. Decisions.
     

Blogging from A to Z Challenge - V



I was looking at a soft path project from my Garden Club newsletter from The Home Depot today, and it got me to thinking about vinegar. It seems there is no more versatile product out there than vinegar. We use it to ward off mosquitoes in the backyard. I cook with it. I've cleaned with it. I also learned today that it can help kill weeds.


According to the TLC Cooking website, little research has been performed to substantiate all the claims made about vinegar's health benefits. What they did say is that there is evidence to support that vinegar plays a role in helping to fight diseases such as osteoporosis, diabetes, and heart disease when combined with an overall healthy lifestyle. It also helps our bodies absorb important minerals from the foods we eat and recently has been said to help control blood sugar levels.


This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Writing Your Family Legacy Giveaway at Linda Weaver Clarke's Blog




Blog: Linda Weaver Clarke’s A Family Friendly Blog

Title of book: Writing Your Family Legacy

Author of book: Linda Weaver Clarke

Genre: Self Help

Open to: International

Giveaway Dates: April 23 – May 7


Blogging from A to Z Challenge - U



How many of you have heard of the UGLI® fruit? I truly hope I'm not the only one who didn't know about this Jamaican tangelo. UGLI is the registered trademark under which Cabel Hall Citrus Ltd. markets this fruit. I honestly had no idea, which is why my photo shows only the "U" capitalized and not the whole word.

According to UGLI's website, this tangelo is a variety of citrus fruit that is exported to markets all over the world. You can peel it and eat it like a tangerine or slice it in half and scoop out the insides like you would a grapefruit. This tangelo is used in cooking, but you can also drink the juice. Like other citrus fruit, it is an excellent source of Vitamin C and fiber.

You can find some recipes on the UGLI website.

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Monday, April 23, 2012

You've Got Mail Mondays


Diving back into my mailbox to see what I got. Not a lot this week--unless you count bills. I did, however, receive three books that I'm very excited about.

Listening to Africa by Diana M. Raab. I'm reviewing this over at The Book Connection. I read her book Healing with Words in the past, and I knew I would want to read this one too.

The other two books were prizes from blogs:  Dying Embers by Robert E. Bailey and Delicacy by David Foenkinos.

I also received a letter from Bucking Horse Books about Sneed B. Collard III's new e-book mystery, Dog 4491. You can find out more about it here.

Hope your mailman was nice to you last week.

Blessings,

Cheryl

Blogging from A to Z Challenge - T


Truly hard to believe we're almost at the end of this year's Blogging from A to Z Challenge. I hope you've been enjoying my posts.

Today is the letter T and that's for thyme--one of the the herbs I think about together ( parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme). You can thank Simon and Garfunkel for that.

Thyme is another one of those herbs that has ancient roots. According to vegetarianism & vegetarian nutrition, the Romans believed it to be a cure for melancholy. Thyme is a member of the mint family, which always surprises me because I expect it to taste like mint in my food, but it doesn't. I almost decided to grow it in my herb garden this year, but decided to go with chives instead.

I often use thyme in marinades for beef and chicken. It's also used in soups or on vegetables. The essential oil is used in aromatherapy to relieve pain (I need to get me some of this) and elevate mood, according to the website. It's also consider helpful for bronchitis. Who knew?

It's not an herb I use often, but I make sure I don't run out--just in case.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Rubbermaid Hidden Recycler Giveaway Winner!


Congratulations go out to Savannah M. She won the Rubbermaid® Hidden Recycler. I have emailed the winner. She has 72 hours to respond with her mailing address. If I don't hear from her within that time frame, a new winner will be selected.

Thanks to all who participated. A new giveaway will be coming this Friday.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Blogging from A to Z Challenge - S



This year we're going to attempt to plant strawberries. The seeds all came in yesterday, and I discovered these were supposed to be started indoors a few weeks ago. Whoops! We'll see what happens.

According to The World's Healthiest Foods, recent research shows this fruit to be an exceptional source of antioxidants. When compared with other fruits, strawberries come in fourth behind blackberries, cranberries, and raspberries. Since our family loves all of these, it looks like we're doing something right.

Something else this article from WHFoods shows is that maximum storage time for strawberries is only 2 days. After that, they lose a great deal of vitamin C and polyphenol antioxidants. Strawberries are also good for cardiovascular health.

While I enjoy strawberries plain, I must admit I like them most in my favorite dessert--strawberry shortcake.

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Pool Season and Safety Go Hand in Hand



When pool season arrives, we turn our attention to safety. The family hasn’t had a little one running around in a while, but now that our nephew is toddling, we want to make sure he’s safe around the in-laws’ pool. That’s why we’re considering either a Pool Alarm or Pool Safety Fence.


The Safety Turtle® Child Immersion Alarm Kit includes: one Turtle Wristband including a 7.8 inch locking wristband, key, and matching "baby Turtle" coding plug for the Base Station. The Safety Turtle will work in all kinds of fresh water and no installation is required. A loud alarm sounds at the Base Station when the Safety Turtle is immersed in water, and continues to sound until the alarm is reset. It’s not so sensitive that rain or a light spray will set it off, and the battery will last for three to four years. It’s also portable.


The Above Ground Pool Safety Fence features molded mounting brackets, along with molded caps and stainless steel hardware to provide an attractive finished look. Easy to install, the modular kits allow you to choose how much you need, without ending up with extra parts. The fencing comes in white or taupe to match any décor. The Above Ground Pool Safety Fence comes with a five-year warranty.
Keep family and friends safe this summer with a pool alarm or safety fence.

This post is sponsored by PoolGear Plus, the fastest-growing catalog and Internet company in the US.

Blogging from A to Z Challenge - R



Today we're talking about rosemary. This is a fragrant herb often used in aromatherapy. In ancient times, it was used as a medicinal, ritual and seasoning herb, according to Live and Feel.

Its leaves are similar to pine needles. I often use dried rosemary when I cook--though I never can stop feeling like I should be singing, Scarborough Fair when I sprinkle it in.

Rosemary is said to increase energy and optimism. Long-term it fortifies and revitalizes the body. Rosemary tincture can be diluted with water to work on several ailments. The essential oil is used in cosmetic products.

Since this herb was popular with ancient Greeks, I figured I would share a recipe that reminds me of my husband's Greek heritage. It comes from Allrecipes.com.

Prep time: 30 min

Cook time: 2 hours
  • 6 lamb shanks
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 large carrots, cut into 1/4 inch rounds
  • 10 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (750 milliliter) bottle red wine
  • 1 (28 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes with juice
  • 1 (10.5 ounce) can condensed chicken broth
  • 1 (10.5 ounce) can beef broth
  • 5 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  1. Sprinkle shanks with salt and pepper. Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook shanks until brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer shanks to plate.
  2. Add onions, carrots and garlic to pot and saute until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in wine, tomatoes, chicken broth and beef broth. Season with rosemary and thyme. Return shanks to pot, pressing down to submerge. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover, and simmer until meat is tender, about 2 hours.
  3. Remove cover from pot. Simmer about 20 minutes longer. Transfer shanks to platter, place in a warm oven. Boil juices in pot until thickened, about 15 minutes. Spoon over shanks.               
This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

New Winner for Authors in Bloom, All Author Blog Hop Giveaway



We selected a new winner for the Authors in Bloom, All Author Blog Hop Giveaway because of the location of the original winner. Our new winner is Elisha G. I have emailed her. She has 72 hours to respond with her mailing information.

Thanks again to all who participated.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Blogging from A to Z Challenge - Q



Queso is a creamy, soft cheese that originated in Spain and then made its way to Mexico and America. It can be eaten as a snack or in cooking. It's also great crumbled over salad.

We all know that cheese is a good source of calcium, but according to Spanish Cheese: a flavorsome delight, many steer clear of it because of the fat content. Spain has a variety of cheeses made from sheep's, goat's or cow's milk. It goes on to say, "Sheep, cows and goats grazing on wild herbs and pastures in the Spanish uplands absorb a lot of extra nutrients, which are passed into their milk, and in turn are passed on to us in their wonderful tasting cheeses. There is no comparison, in flavour or health benefits, between Spanish cheeses from animals raised outside grazing on natural pasture, and cheese made from the milk of cows fed and raised industrially in compounds elsewhere in the world."

Here's a Queso Dip Recipe I found at Allrecipes.com.

Prep time: 10 min

Cook time: 10 min

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon salsa
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Thoroughly stir in the cornstarch. Stir in the sour cream. When the mixture becomes hot and bubbly, mix in Cheddar cheese and salsa. Continue stirring until cheese has melted and mixture begins to thicken, about 10 minutes. Serve hot.

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Blogger New Design

Okay, I need some opinions. Blogger went to a new design today. I really don't like it. I don't feel as in control with this new dashboard. I like how the labels work, but that's about it. I'm thinking of moving to WordPress. What do you think of the new design?

Authors in Bloom, All Authors Blog Hop Giveaway Winner



Congratulations go out to Tamalyn R. the winner of our Authors in Bloom, All Authors Blog Hop Giveaway. She will receive the two gardening books mentioned in my original post.

I will be contacting the winner via email soon. She will have 72 hours to respond with her mailing information before I select a new winner.

Thanks to all who participated. The Rubbermaid Hidden Recycler giveaway ends on the 21st, so be sure to check out my Giveaways page.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Blogging from A to Z Challenge - P



One of the seeds I was sure to order this week was pumpkin. The kids love pumpkins because they enjoy decorating them for Halloween. The one year we planted them, things didn't turn out too well. The plants got powdery mildew infection and I ended up harvesting the few pumpkins early. We only used them as decorations that year.

According to Power Your Diet, rich in vital anti-oxidants and vitamins, pumpkin is also low in calories. They say the pumpkin is "rrecommended by dietitians in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction programs." I used to eat pumpkin seeds as a kid, dried and baked in the oven with a bit of salt. The seeds are a good source of dietary fiber.

The only way my girls enjoy eating pumpkin is in muffin form. This is a great recipe from my Betty Crocker's New Christmas Cookbook. I love this book and use it all year round.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup (1/2) stick margarine or butter, melted
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 egg

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease bottom only of 12 medium muffin cups, 2 1/2 x 1 1/14 inches. Mix all ingredients just until flour is moistened (batter will be lumpy). Divide batter evenly among cups (about two-thirds full). Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon sugar over batter in each cup if desired. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately remove from pan. 1 dozen muffins.

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Giveaway Winners Announced!


Congratulations goes out to AnnaMarie R. She won a copy of Her Frozen Wild by Kim Antieau.

Congratulations also go out to Apple Blossom. She won a copy of my book, Little Shepherd during the Pump Up Your Book 5th Anniversary Hoedown.

My email is currently down, but it should be restored by tonight. Once I contact the winners, they will have 72 hours to respond with mailing information before a new winner is selected.

Thanks to all who participated. Don't forget, the Authors in Bloom, All Authors Blog Hop Giveaway ends tonight. You can visit my Giveaways page for the direct link.

More giveaways are coming soon.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tasty Tuesdays - Cheese Tortellini in Light Broth



Over the years, I have amassed a sizable collection of cookbooks. Funny thing is I usually go back to the same one time and again once I find a great recipe. This one comes from Everyday Italian by Giada De Laurentis.

Now that the weather is warming up around here, I don't want to spend every evening cooking a large meal and heating up the kitchen. Here is a recipe for an easy soup that takes less than 10 minutes to make. My husband loves it.

Cheese Tortellini in Light Broth

4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 (9-ounce) package fresh cheese tortellini
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

Pour the broth into a large, heavy saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the tortellini and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Cover partially and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the tortellini are al dente, about 7 minutes. Season the broth with more pepper to taste.

Ladle the broth and tortellini into serving bowls. Top with Parmesan cheese and parsley, and serve.

I usually serve this with a side salad and garlic bread.

Blogging from A to Z Challenge - O


Maybe I shouldn't admit this, but I love onions. I eat them every chance I get. Guess it's a good thing I work from home and don't go out a lot.

Onions are members of the Allium family, which means they are rich in sulfur-containing compounds. That's where they get their strong odor from, but that's also where many of the health benefits come from.
I learned something new about onions today. According to The World's Healiest Foods, "When onions are simmered to make soup, their quercetin does not get degraded. It simply gets transferred into the water part of the soup. By using a low-heat method for preparing onion soup, you can preserve the health benefits of onion that are associated with this key flavonoid." I thought water would reduce the health benefit of any vegetable.

The onion has been found to help protect the heart and blood vessels (if you have a diet rich in other fruits and vegetables) and can help increase bone density. It also can reduce the risk of certain cancers.

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Click here for a list of participants.

Monday, April 16, 2012

You've Got Mail Mondays



I guess the mailman was aching for vacation last week, because he didn't deliver much here. We didn't receive any mail on Saturday. That rarely happens.

Catholic Family Fun by Sarah A. Reinhard arrived mid-week. I'll be reviewing this book in May and we'll have a giveaway here, so be on the lookout for that.

I also received a letter from our Board of Selectmen's office stating I did not get the position I applied for. Actually, despite my many years in an office environment, I never even received a request for an interview. This tight job market is killing my need to supplement the hubby's income. There were years when I would be deciding over multiple offers. Now, unless I want to sell insurance, my options are limited.

Entertainment® Fundraising™ sent me a flyer about a 2 FREE bonus offer they have extended. I contacted them a while ago about fundraising options for our church.

Our weekly local paper, The Wilbraham-Hampden Times, had articles on two local authors last week. Christine M. Moran wrote a book on adoption titled, The Legacies of Trees. Eight-year-old, Erik Beckel, is pictured with his book, The Lands. This is a fantasy adventure story of a boy and his two brothers who are vacationing in Spain. A small vent in the attic begins their magical journey to The Lands, where they meet the adorable Fuzzy and the helpful Marshmallow Eggs. I'm going to see if I can get copies of these books to review.

That's it for this week of You've Got Mail Mondays. Wishing you a week full of blessings.

Blogging from A to Z Challenge - N



This house is never without a can of nuts somewhere. Peanuts, cashews, pistachios, walnuts and more are regular snacks. According to staff at the Mayo Clinic, eating nuts as part of a healthy diet can be good for your heart. They say people who eat nuts as part of a heart-healthy diet can lower their low-density lipoprotein (LDL)--bad--cholesterol. High LDL is a primary cause of heart disease.

A few years ago, my husband's LDL was high, so he began a program that included exercising five days a week and a low fat diet. His doctor also prescribed simvastatin (Zocor). The challenge is since he started this altogether, it's hard to know if diet and exercise could have brought about the desired change without the need for medication. Even with medication, lifestyle is a key component in reducing the risk for heart disease.

While nuts can be expensive, the health benefits far outweigh the costs for us.

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. A full list of participants can be found here.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Lightweight Pool Float is Soft and Durable



I enjoy floating in the pool as much as anyone, but I don’t like the chore of inflating floats each summer, trying to find an easy way to store them, and then deflating and tucking them away until the next season. I’ve done it enough at my in-laws’ house that if I never have to do it again, I’ll feel blessed.

The Ocean Blue Unsinkable Foam Pool Float is an alternative I’m looking at. It is constructed of Ensolite®, an ultra-soft, forever-buoyant foam. No need to inflate. No worries over repairing leaks. And since it’s nice and thin (only 1 1/4" thick), storage won’t be an issue.

This pool float features a soft vinyl coating to prevent cracking and to make it more comfortable. My husband will appreciate the Ocean Blue Unsinkable Foam Pool Float’s size. It measures approximately 70" long x 26" wide. He’s a tall guy, so this will be perfect. It also only weighs 14 pounds. Even I can move that around easily.

The Ocean Blue Unsinkable Foam Pool Float is a PoolGear Plus® bestseller. This float is currently listed as one of their hot deals.

This post sponsored by PoolGear Plus.

Blogging from A to Z Challenge - M


Here's where I admit I am a bad girl. I don't really care for milk much. I'll drink it with cookies, pie, and pasta, but other than that, the only milk I get is in tea or with cereal. My girls, however, are big milk drinkers. I guess someone in the house should be healthy.

In addition to protecting against osteoporosis and maintaining healthy teeth, milk and dairy products could help reduce high blood pressure, according to The Dairy Council. Several studies also link consumption of these products with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Surprisingly, it states people who consume milk and dairy products are likely to be slimmer than those who don't. Studies have shown that consumption of milk and dairy foods as part of a calorie controlled diet leads to increased weight loss, particularly from the abdomen. Who would have thought?

This post is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge. A full list of participants can be found here.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Spring Cleaning Month: Rubbermaid® Hidden Recycler Review & Giveaway


One of the challenges of recycling is how time consuming and messy it is. With a large recycling container out in the garage, I don't want to make a trip out there for every bottle and can. So, my countertops usually look a mess. When Rubbermaid® announced they were looking for bloggers to review their new Hidden Recycler, I jumped at the chance.



The Hidden Recycler installs in minutes--either with its over the door hooks or screws (included). I opted for the former, since my hubby would go into convulsions if I put screws into the cabinet. You slip the bag over the carrying handle frame and secure it by sliding the tabs on the frame into the slits on the bag.

The 5 gallon bag is made from 65% post-consumer resin and is machine washable. Large enough to fit 1 gallon milk containers, its compact enough to fit inside your cabinet without taking up too much room. Once the unit is full, you simply lift it by the handle and carry it out to your larger recycling container and dump the contents.
The only odor it seems to retain is that of cat food. I rinse my cans well, but the smell of cat food is strong. That's the main reason I tossed the Hidden Recycler in the washing machine. Hint: Before removing the bag from the washing machine, turn it upside down over the washer to remove any water that has gathered in the bottom of the bag. My laundry room floor and my arm got an unexpected bath when I washed it for the first time. I usually hang my bag outside on the line to let it dry before using it again. It doesn't come out dripping wet, so drying doesn't take long.


The Rubbermaid Hidden Recycler has made recycling much easier around here. Since the unit has a handle, I can easily carry cans/bottles and paper out to the garage at the same time, and my kitchen looks cleaner all day long. Even if the unit is left full overnight, I don't detect any odor in the kitchen. I highly recommend the Hidden Recycler. It's a fabulous product that is perfect for my busy home.

Rubbermaid has generously offered to provide one lucky reader of Books, Products and More! with their own FREE Hidden Recycler. Please use the Rafflecopter form below to enter.

Good luck!

I received a free Rubbermaid Hidden Recycler in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no monetary compensation for this review.

Blogging from A to Z Challenge - L


What I was going to talk about today was a no brainer for me because I swear the Greeks use lemon for everything: to flavor water, and to add a kick to soups, fish, steak, and salads.
Lemons have antioxidants and are a great source of Vitamin C. According to The World's Healthiest Foods, consumption of Vitamin C is associated with a reduced risk of death from all causes including heart disease, stroke and cancer. A versatile fruit, lemon juice can be used to clean copper, remove stains on counter tops, and freshen up your drain. It can also be used as a bleaching agent for clothes, but I have never been brave enough to try it.

This post is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge. You can find a list of participants here.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Tracking Your Time Will Make You More Productive



It seems wrong to mention a Wall Street Journal article on Thursday instead of Wednesday here, but it works in perfectly with this post. In the Monday, April 2, 2012 edition of The Wall Street Journal, H. James Wilson, senior researcher at Babson Executive Education, states that encouraging workers to track what they are doing makes them healthier and more productive. Wilson opens his article with this statement:

"Imagine how much better workers could do their jobs if they knew exactly how they spend their day."

I talk about productivity and tracking time in articles for Writer2Writer here and here. This seems so simple, but there is resistance to it:  if I am overwhelmed, how can I waste time writing out what I do each day? The reality is that because you don't have a clear idea of where your time is spent, you really can't see where time is wasted. You keep running in the same circles without finding a way out.

Wilson's article goes on to talk about auto-analytics, which are devices that help users, "gather data about what they do at work, analyze that information and use it to do their job better." Now, this won't work for the average stay-at-home mom or writer, but tracking your time isn't that complicated. I haven't done it for a while, and suddenly I find myself overwhelmed with no idea how to rein in the days that are flying by. So, I plan to go back to my old model--steno notebook and pencil. You can also track your time in a spreadsheet to be green and have less paper flying around. You can view my sample of a list here. If you're interested in reading Wilson's entire article, click here.

How do you keep track of your time? What do you think your biggest time waster is?

Blogging from A to Z Challenge - K


Here's another leafy green vegetable that is good for you--kale. If it weren't for my in-laws, I might not have thought much about kale. It took me over 35 years to happily eat spinach. My father-in-law enjoys kale, and it's good for him too, considering the cholesterol-lowering benefits you get from steaming it. In 1996, he had a quadruple bypass, so a huge diet change followed.

According to The World's Healthiest Foods, this leafy green has also been shown to lower the risk of five different types of cancer, and kale's glucosinolates can help regulate detox at a genetic level. They say kale is one of the healthiest vegetables around.

While steaming is the best way to cook kale, I thought this sauteed kale recipe from Bobby Flay found on Foodnetwork.com sounded good.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

1 1/2 pounds young kale, stems and leaves coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1/2 cup vegetable stock or water
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook until soft, but not colored. Raise heat to high, add the stock and kale and toss to combine. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Remove cover and continue to cook, stirring until all the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add vinegar.

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. For a full list of participants, visit this link.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Spring Cleaning Month - Seventh Generation™ Disinfecting Wipes



Disinfecting wipes make getting rid of germs easier, but the harsh chemicals in many of them do a number on my sensitive skin. In addition, I'm not sure they are the best thing for a house filled with animals and kids.

I had a coupon for $1 off any Seventh Generation™ product, so I opted to try their Disinfecting Wipes. Their website says they kill "over 99.99% of household germs." These are strong, sturdy wipes of a good size. I use them in the kitchen and bathroom all the time.

I didn't like that the label lists the active ingredients as .05% Thymol and 99.95% other, which forced me to visit their website to learn what the remaining ingredients are, but I didn't see anything in the list that would cause concern. The one thing I can say, however, is that these wipes do not have a pleasant fragrance. I don't want a perfume smell for my disinfecting wipes, but even my kids don't like the smell of these. I use them, but I have to wash my hands with soap and water afterwards to get rid of the scent.

Since they work well and don't fall apart, I would still consider purchasing more of these in the future.


I purchased a 35-count canister of this product during my weekly trip to the store. I received no monetary compensation for this review.

Blogging from A to Z Challenge - J



Here's something I had never heard of before--juniper berries. Now, I had heard of the plant Juniperus Recurva, but I don't think I've ever seen one before, and I didn't know it had berries, never mind that they were edible.

According to The Spice House, the berries are popular around game season because they are used to flavor wild game. Not being one who eats a lot of wild game, I had no idea. They were used by American Indians when they cooked buffalo. In Europe they are used to flavor wild boar (that does not sound appetizing), venison and pork, and in stuffing for fowl. The juniper berry is said to have a tart flavor.

Have you ever used them? Did you like them?

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. You can find a list of participants here.


Michaela MacColl Books Giveaway Winner!



Congratulations go out to Tayet, winner of the two books by Michael MacColl. The winner has been emailed and has 72 hours to respond before I select a new winner.

Thanks to all who participated. Check the giveaways page to see what else you have a chance of winning. Thanks for your support!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Become.com Makes Comparison Shopping Easier


I’m not one of those people who enjoys shopping. I know what I want; I find it; I buy it. Done. My time is too precious to spend it scouring the Internet for the best deals. Problem is it costs me more money in the long run. What I need is a site that makes comparison shopping easier.

It looks like Become.com might be the answer to my prayers. Become.com is a fully integrated Web-wide product search and comparison shopping site. By reducing spam and irrelevant results, their specially designed search technology will help you find what you’re looking for quicker.

Looking for a floral damask bedding collection black? Type that in and you’ll come up with a list of sites that carry them and what the cost is, and a small thumbnail photo. If the item is on sale, you’ll see the regular price and the sales price.

How about cherry dining room chairs with casters sets? You’ll find those too. And what about bathroom carpet cut to fit? You guessed it. They have those too. From automotive to books, from computer software to office equipment, from jewelry and watches to outdoor sports, and more, Become.com allows you to find just what you’re looking for. It also provides you access to product reviews, buying guides, and discussion forums. They even have a Favorites feature that allows you to mark products you might want to see again.

With over 20 million products from over 5,000 retailers, you’re bound to find almost anything at Become.com.


This post brought to you by Become.com

Blogging from A to Z Challenge - I


I was going to open this post with my excuse for liking what is known as the least nutritious kind of lettuce (pretty much it's my favorite and I prefer it) but instead, I can now eat my iceberg lettuce in peace.  According to Raw Food Health, this is a myth. The article states that by most measures of nutrition, iceberg lags behind romaine and other leafy greens, especially when measured by weight. If measured by calories, however, it's not that bad. In addition, it leads in water and sodium. Hmmm....

You can read the entire article here if you're interested.

Here's a simple recipe I found at GymTrainer that sounds good

Iceberg Lettuce with Sunflower Seeds

•1 iceberg lettuce
•1 handful of raw sunflower seeds
•1 / 2 cucumber
•5-6 olives
•5-6 capers
•2 tablespoons olive oil
•2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
•salt to taste

Preparation:
Clean and cut the wholesale iceberg in a large bowl. Add olives, capers, cleaned and chopped cucumber. Bake in a dry pan over high heat for 2-3 minutes and place the seeds in a salad.
Garnish with herbs and stir.

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. You can find a full list of participants here.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Blogging from A to Z Challenge - H


The Lil Diva's (10) favorite fruit outside of strawberries (Anyone know what we'll be talking about when we get to S?) is honeydew melon. According to The Cook's Thesaurus, honeydew melon has a green or orange flesh (I didn't know about the latter). These melons are very low in sodium and high in Vitamin C. A large portion of the fruit's calories, however, come from sugar.

We use honeydew melon in fruit salads or eat it alone with breakfast or as an in between meal snack.

You've Got Mail Mondays!



Good thing it was a slow mail week. Holy Week is always busy around here. On Thursday we celebrated a Seder Supper at church, and then we had a lovely Good Friday candle light service that reflected on the seven sayings of Jesus while on the Cross. Saturday and Sunday I cooked. The whole family was here Sunday afternoon to celebrate Easter. By tomorrow, I might have recuperated. 

It was a week of books last week. The first was Miracle Play by Lynn McMonigal. Lynn was kind enough to send me an autographed copy with a Bible verse listed below her signature. (Joshua 1:9). I am eager to read this one, as it sounds lovely.

Covenant House, one the charities we donate to, recently included the book, Sometimes God Has a Kid's Face, by Sister Mary Rose McGeady.

Then finally, I received three books from the Learning to See Series:  The Artist's Eye, Drawing Techniques, and Figure Drawing. I will be reviewing these ones. I have two budding artists and I would love to learn how to draw, so I figured they would be perfect.

My membership renewal to the SCBWI came last week. This is a great group that helps children's book writers and illustrators network. They have a newsletter and hold conferences. I belong the New England Chapter.

Finally, the Summer 2012 newsletter for All American Gymnastic Academy in Wilbraham came. The girls usually have their birthday parties there. The Lil Princess (8) took one session of gymnastics during the fall of 2010, but it's expensive, and we couldn't swing it with all the other things that were going on. This year's summer program looks great and comparably priced to other summer events, so I might sign them up for a session for after we return from North Carolina in July.

Speaking of North Carolina, I'm getting excited, because it looks like the whole family will be joining us for part of the time we're there. My son and daughter-in-law can only stay a long weekend, but it will be nice to have them with us. My brother-in-law, sister-in-law and Baby Harry will be traveling by car, with my father- and mother-in-law tagging along. We've never gone as a whole group, so this should be neat.

That's it for this week's peek into my mailbox. Hope you have a lovely week filled with many blessings.

Authors in Bloom, An All Author Blog Hop! Enter to Win a Nook or Kindle!

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April 9th –April 18th
10 Days of Giveaways-Gardening Tips-Recipes-and more!
Plus GRAND PRIZE you’ll be digging to win!

Gardening Tip: Plant strawberries in the spring as soon as the soil can be worked or in late fall.

Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar (from Allrecipes.com)
Prep Time: 10 minutes

Ready in: 1 hour and 10 minutes
  • 16 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and large berries cut in half
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
Place strawberries in a bowl. Drizzle vinegar over strawberries, and sprinkle with sugar. Stir gently to combine. Cover, and let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour but not more than 4 hours. Just before serving, grind pepper over berries.               

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What you can win from Books, Products and More!

Paperback copy of Gardening Success by Peter McHoy with Susan Berry and Steve Bradley
Hardcover copy of Best Plants for Your Garden by Jane Hattatt

Open to residents of the United States only.
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Authors in Bloom Travling Story Phrase for Grand Prize:

To enter this giveaway for your chance to win a Nook or Kindle you need to collect all the phrases of the traveling story by visiting each author on the linky list below. Each page has a phrase. I recommend copying and pasting all the phrases into a separate document and then copy and paste the full list into the form at http://www.acozyreaderscorner.com/2012/04/authors-in-bloom-all-author-blog-hop.html. They do not have to be in order, but if you do put them in order you will get to read a wonderful short, written by Dianne Venetta. Happy Collecting! Don't forget to enter all the giveaways on each authors' sites while collecting the phrases! Each author is posting a tip or recipie for your enjoyment as well!

Line 80: But then again, you were so focused on being noticed, wanted…
Line 81: Take your time.