Book Talk Tuesday: Thrill Me

I can’t believe summer is half over, but it must be. I got my third Fool’s Gold book last week. That’s the signal that summer and 100+ degree days are on the way out. I’m happy to see the end of summer heat but not so happy to see the end of Fool’s Gold until Christmas time.

THRILL ME by Susan Mallery
THRILL ME by Susan Mallery

THRILL ME is Maya’s story. We met Maya in last month’s offering, KISS ME. Maya returned to Fool’s Gold with her friend Phoebe who fell in love with Maya’s stepbrother Zane in KISS ME. Now Maya’s been offered a job in Fool’s Gold, the only town that’s ever felt like home. She’s tired of life in LA and ready to come home. She never expected Del would be coming home too.

Del Mitchell and Maya were in love when they were just out of high school. In love and engaged. Until Maya panicked, dumped Del, and left town for college. Del packed up and left too. He’s back in town for his dad’s upcoming birthday party and to decide his next project. He doesn’t expect to strike up a friendship with Maya again, not after she broke up with him.

I loved this one! (No shock, I know.)

Maya and Del are older, smarter, and more experienced now. They’re both surprised that those youthful feelings of love can be so easily rekindled. But Maya just got back to town and Del will leaving at the end of summer. She’d love to travel to some of the places he’s planning to see, but it doesn’t make sense to leave a good job and the only home she’s ever felt she belonged in. Del wants to ask Maya to come with him. They make a great team behind the camera. He’s got a vision for a video project and Maya would be a perfect partner. Except can he trust her? She ran off once, she could do it again.

As usual, I really enjoyed this one and recommend it. The sex is still pushing my boundaries, but it’s later in the book and more subdued than earlier Fool’s Gold installments, which I like.

Go. Buy. Escape. Enjoy. Trust me.

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√ I received a free copy of THRILL ME in return for an honest review.

Media Monday: Social Media Part 2

We’ve had an … interesting year or two in our family.

And I’ve been thinking about social media some more since my post about it a couple of weeks ago. I’m okay with being authentic and honest and telling people I’m struggling with something. At least in person. The problem comes when what I’m dealing with isn’t my personal hardship. fb

2014 was a year of legal wrangling. We walked a journey from arrest to sentencing, with stops in bail, pre-trial hearings, plea bargains, and victim statements. Even though we were on the roller coaster, it wasn’t our amusement park. (Yes, I know I’m mixing my metaphors and dropping similes all over the place, but work with me here.) So I didn’t feel I could talk on social media about the experience.

2015 has been a year of health issues. We have a loved one in a fight for her life against a nasty cancer. Stud Muffin has been treated for a-fib cardiac issues and an intestinal abscess. Other family members have had eye/vision problems, cardiac issues, back injuries, broken bones. twitter

The tension I feel is how can I post a chipper update about my excitement over a new flavor of lip balm when my heart is breaking because we just heard chemo didn’t work again and we’re on to another more dangerous treatment.

Those who know me personally and know the truth may think me shallow to be talking about mango vs. marshmallow flavored chapstick. While those who don’t me may think I have nothing serious going on and I can’t relate to the stresses a crisis brings.

It’s a 21st century problem for sure.

Every social media post I make, on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram is given some consideration before I click “Post.” I strive for a mix of humor and honesty, mundane and momentous, personal and promotion.

It’s a tricky balance and I’m not at all confident that I’m not constantly on the verge of falling flat on my face.

How honest do you think others are on social media? I’ve had friends leave Facebook because they got tired of seeing everyone else’s bright and shiny lives. I’ve unfollowed a few people who’s posts were continually full of either self-promotion

Picture from wikipedia.com
Picture from wikipedia.com

or a cleaned up version of life that can’t possibly be true. And a few who moan ceaselessly about how hard life is for them. They’ve all obviously missed the balance and have toppled over to one side or the other.

I remember a few months ago the Kardashians took some heat for tweeting about something inane (a new fragrance?) right after a tragic event overseas (an earthquake? – the details are fuzzy). People were outraged over the callousness. But the tweets were pre-scheduled to be broadcast at a certain time. No one deliberately picked that moment. This story is often told to urge against pre-scheduling social media and it’s why I rarely schedule tweets anymore. Blog posts are another story. ;-)

But it’s a real risk, appearing uncaring or even stupid because of a post or tweet.

What do you think? How honest should we be on social media? How transparent? Where’s the boundary when what we share involves others?

Food Talk Friday: Coleslaw

I’m not normally a coleslaw fan. Ever since I was a kid, it’s never been a favorite. I don’t know if I didn’t like the sweetness of some slaws or the tanginess. Whatever, if it was on the table, I may take a dollop out of politeness, but not with any gusto.

Until about five or six years ago when I had this amazing blue cheese cole slaw. The tang of the cheese isn’t a vinegary tang, it’s smooth and marries perfectly with the crunch of the cabbage. I make this all summer long and love it. I’ve even made the dressing on occasion by itself and used it on green salads. Yummmm!!!

I’ve named it for the friend who gave me the recipe. She even won an award for this one!

No picture (what was I thinking, not taking a picture of this stuff??) But I’ll be having some this weekend. I’ll snap one and add it later.

Abbie’s Blue Cheese Coleslaw

1 med green cabbage (about 2 lbs) thinly shredded (about 12 cups)

1 small red onion, slivered

1/4 C chopped parsley

1 T sugar

1 t salt

1/4 C tarragon wine vinegar

1/2 C each sour cream and may

1 C crumbled blue cheese

In a large bowl, lightly mix cabbage, onion, and parsley.

In a medium blow, mix sugar and salt, add vinegar and stir until sugar dissolves. Mix in sour cream and mayo, then fold in cheese.

Pour dressing over cabbage mixture. Mix lightly to coat with dressing. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 3 hours to blend flavors.

Woe! It’s Wednesday: Family Connections

I’ve blogged before that my family of origin is a blended family. But I’ve never been treated as a step- or a half- or as anything other than a welcomed and loved family member.

Family Trees
Family Trees

We just got back from a quick trip to visit a cousin in Nevada. We talked, we laughed, we even cried a bit. We did some fun tourist things, we relaxed, we enjoyed each other’s company.

I love that I have cousins around the country. I’ve popped in on one in San Francisco while he was at work. I have a cousin in New England who’s invited us to visit and we hope to take him up on that. A cousin in Portland taught how to make homemade pasta. One cousin just gave me a ton of grandchild toys that my girls are having a ball with.

I love that I have amazing people in my life and I’m so grateful for each of them, no matter how we ended up as family.

Book Talk Tuesday: QUAKER SUMMER

This is an older book that has been on Mt. TBR for a couple of years. I’m so glad I picked it up and read it finally.

QUAKER SUMMER by Lisa Samson
QUAKER SUMMER by Lisa Samson

Heather Curridge is frustrated with her life but afraid to show her discontent. She has a beautiful home. A surgeon husband. An amazing son. She buys and remodels and volunteers in an effort to prove to herself, and to God, that she is a good person and deserves her blessings.

But she knows better. She knows that her son being bullied at his private Christian school is God paying her back. And her inability to find contentment is rooted in her need to lose twenty forty pounds. Heather and her family stopped going to church a year or so ago and they just can’t find a new one to fit their needs.

A chance encounter in a rough part of town introduces Heather to Sister Jerusha, a nun making a difference. Then Heather has an accident on one of her evening drives and is rescued by two elderly sisters with a vibrant faith.

Heather begins to see that her faith is not about her. After spending time with the sisters and the Sister, Heather sets out on a journey to set her crooked world back on its firm foundation.

I really loved this book. I think it speaks to many women who know they are blessed, know they are called to something more than running car pool and delivering cupcakes, but don’t know where to start or where to go.

The answer is quite simple: Start where you are.

Media Monday: Social Media

Twitter. Facebook. Instagram. Tumblr. Linked In. Stumbleupon. Google+. Pinterest.

The options to stay connected with friends, family, readers, your tribe, your peeps, your BFFs and your fellow sojourners

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confusion_Corner
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confusion_Corner

seems to be exploding exponentially every month.

Keeping up some of them is daunting enough, forget trying to do all of them. Or at lease doing all of them well.

Social media has been around for a while now. And the subject, at least for writers in my circles, has been beat to a bloody pulp.

Yet we still worry if we’re doing enough. Are we protecting our family’s privacy? To tag or not to tag? Personal Facebook page or Author page?

For me, I’ve had to rethink some strategies and I’ve settled on a few guidelines that work for me.

I’ve chosen two social media outlets to focus my time and efforts on. For now, it’s Facebook and Twitter. I drop in occasionally on Instagram and Pinterest. I maintain a Google+ and Linded In profile but do little there.

Some authors believe the point of social media is to sell books. While that would be nice, for me it’s about connecting. Making friends, learning things, finding new authors. In other words, it’s about people, not numbers.

Life now moves at a frenetic pace but as humans on this planet, we’re still wired for personal connections. The internet and social media makes it both harder and easier to stay connected. Easier because we can chat with an acquaintance in another country on a whim. Harder because sometimes it’s easier to chat about Downton Abbey with a stranger halfway around the world than it is to resolve a personal conflict with a family member.

But when you’re sick with the mother of all flu bugs and can’t leave the bed, it’s not @BringBackSybil_43 who’s going to fix you pudding and chicken soup.

Social media is amazing, but it’s no substitute for good old-fashioned personal relations.

What do you think? Are you overwhelmed with social media options? Or are you a social media-aholic?

Food Talk Friday: Mac & Cheese

Stud Muffin and I both grew up on packaged macaroni cheese from the blue box. And contrary to what you may think, we both love it. It’s a comfort food. And until recently, we agreed that we’d never had a homemade mac and cheese that we liked any better.

That has officially changed.

macandcheese
Fannie Farmer’s Mac & Cheese

For our recent cabin trip, the menu included mac and cheese one night that Stud Muffin was cooking. He looked around the web for a recipe and ended up choosing one from Food.com. We ended up having so much food at the cabin that he didn’t make it, but he did put it together to go with the hotdogs on July 4th.

This was the second-best homemade mac and cheese I’ve ever had. But it’s a much simpler recipe than the first best. 

The Fannie Farmer recipe begins with a roux, then a Bechamel sauce. Stud Muffin used plenty of good cheddar so the result had a rich and creamy cheese flavor. The crumbs on top gave it a nice textural crunch.

What’s your favorite mac and cheese?

Woe! It’s Wednesday: Dress Up or Dress Down?

I addressed this subject several years ago on my former blog (Chocolate, No Nuts), but it’s been on my mind again recently and I think it’s worth a revisit. (I just spent an hour searching both blogs for that post so I could link back to it, but I can’t find it. If anyone knows where I can find it, please let me know.)

I’ll summarize what I remember posting and expand on it a bit.

There’s been a growing trend in contemporary churches toward casual dress. Now I’ll all for being comfortable. As I get older, my heels get lower and my waistbands looser. Stud Muffin has a question he likes to ask his friends who wear shorts and flip-flops to church: “Are you going to church or summer camp?” They both laugh as they head into the worship service.

courtesy of: https://www.flickr.com/photos/javacolleen/4803324406/
courtesy of: https://www.flickr.com/photos/javacolleen/4803324406/

I’m not saying we need to go back to the days of suits for men and women, hats, and clutch purses.

I am saying that perhaps the pendulum could swing a teeny tiny bit more toward caring what we wear to church.

We visit churches when we’re out of town. I freely admit, our home church is the most formal in both dress and worship style. We don’t think our church is “right” and the others are “wrong.”

When I see people on the platform (worship team, pastors, staff) in faded jeans, flip-flops, untucked shirts, and slogan T-shirts, it gives an impression of sloppiness. And if they’re sloppy in how they present themselves to visitors, I have to ask myself, what else are they sloppy about? Theology? Welcoming guests? Small group gatherings?

I know the rationale for casual dress is so visitors don’t feel out of place if they’re dressed casually. I just happen to think it’s actually causing the reverse.

I took a week-long class several years ago on speaking and writing as a ministry. We were told that the rule of thumb is that people on the platform should dress one notch above the audience. For instance, if you’re speaking at a weekend retreat in the mountains and the attendees will be wearing jeans and Ts, it’s appropriate for the speaker to wear casual pants and a nice top/shirt. If the audience is in business casual, the speaker should be in a suit or a nice dress. The speaker dressing up a little conveys to the audience that they’re respected and worth making an effort for.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/125992663@N02/14598904124
https://www.flickr.com/photos/125992663@N02/14598904124

When I see a worship team on the platform in faded jeans and flip-flops, it feels like they just rolled out of bed, pulled on whatever was closest to the bed and then hurried to church. That does not make me feel respected or welcomed.

When we (and yes, I mean you and me) attend weddings and funerals, we dress up. (Unless the wedding is in a meadow.) We put on nice clothes as a display of the honor and respect we hold for the bride and groom or the deceased.

I believe it’s time to show respect for God and each other by leaving the flip-flops home on Sundays. What do you think? Have I missed the point of casual dress?

Book Talk Tuesday: The Wonder of You

Finally! I’ve been waiting for Amelia’s story from Susan May Warren’s Christiansen Family series. Now that I’ve finished it, I’m happy and sad.

Happy because it’s a great book. Sad because there’s only one Christiansen sibling’s story left. Although it promises to be a whopper.

THE WONDER OF YOU by Susan May Warren
THE WONDER OF YOU by Susan May Warren

Amelia Christiansen left in a previous book to go to Europe for a year-long photography course. Her parents visited her a few months later and she returned home with them. With a broken heart. At the end of the last book, ALWAYS ON MY MIND, the heart-breaker arrived in Deep Haven with flowers and an apology.

THE WONDER OF YOU opens a few weeks later. Roark was chased off by Amelia’s protective family and she has slipped back into her role at home as the youngest Christiansen and also slipped back into her role as half of Amelia-and-Seth, her high school relationship. She’s determined to forget about Europe and her dreams and ambitions and to settle in Deep Haven.

Except then Roark St. John returns, this time vowing to stay until he convinces her that what they shared in Prague and Paris wasn’t a fling, but the real thing.

THE WONDER OF YOU is a love triangle. I’ve been skeptical of love triangles ever since an agent told me they are hard to sell because some publishers are afraid readers will feel slighted if the heroine doesn’t choose who they think she should. So ever since then, I examine love triangle stories very closely to see what works and what doesn’t. How does the author influence the reader to root for the “winner.”

Warren did a great job. The premise is “will Amelia stay with the man she’s loved since high school or will she leave the safety of home for the man who broke her heart?” I don’t want to give any spoilers, so I’ll say that at first both men seemed evenly matched and I was afraid I wouldn’t know who to root for. But Warren skillfully wove in some details and circumstances that showed who was the right man for Amelia’s heart.

I loved this one! And now I’m stuck, once again waiting for the next book in this series.

—–I received a free copy of THE WONDER OF YOU in exchange for an honest review. ——-