book review and hot flashes






One minute I’m crying.  The next minute, I’m laughing.  I feel as though I’ve been through an automatic car wash with my windows down.   Emotionally drained and ready for bed with my pink blanky and thumb in mouth.

Early menopause, you ask?  No, I’ve just read Renee Carlino’s newest book, After the Rain.

This woman is on fire with her latest masterpiece!  I mean, rarely have I ever felt such intense emotions while reading a fiction novel.  And lest you think it’s a fluffy, little Harlequin-esque story, just wait.  By page 38, I was ready to don my boxing gloves and knock one of the characters into next week and walk away.  Yet, while at the grocery store later that day, I could NOT stop thinking, what is going to happen next?

I became greedy with my hours until I finished the book.  Dogs whimpered to go outside, husband begged for me to finish and come eat dinner, phone beeped with mounting text messages and yet, I remained tucked away in my “woman cave”.  This story was addicting like a bag of Doritos and this girl was going nowhere until I finished.  And then, with a big smile on my face, I sighed like I’d been holding my breath for hours and turned the last page.

Below, is a lovely note from Renee’s editor, Jhanteigh Kupihea, with Atria Books and I hope it will further entice you to BUY THIS BOOK!

I’m so pleased to present After the Rain by Renée Carlino, a gorgeous contemporary romance that explores the second chances waiting beyond the shattered dreams of youth.

“To read a Renée Carlino novel is to laugh, cry, and fall in love, all while doing some serious soul-searching. As with her first two women’s novels, Sweet Thing and Nowhere But Here, Renee gives us a young, beautifully complex protagonist who must search for meaning and a sense of self after a devastating tragedy, all while navigating matters of the heart with the man who could be The One, if only she can get over the one who came before.

Early readers agree that After the Rain is to be cherished. New York Times bestselling author A.L. Jackson said, ‘[It] tore me up in the best way possible…goes straight to the list of my all-time favorites.’ New York Times bestselling author Mia Sheridan said, ‘Heartbreaking, hopeful, and beautifully written…Books like this make my heart feel full.'”

Needless to say, I am in full agreement that this book brought me hope (along with cherry, red cheeks and heart palpitations as I begrudgingly ;) waded through some seriously sensual love scenes).  Thanks to the people at Atria Books for including me in the Blog Review Tour for Renee’s third book.  It’s been a great experience.

Renee, you’ve done it again and I can’t wish you enough continued success.  I’m pleased to be one of your biggest fans and honored to be one of your friends.


Now, go out and get this book!




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Creating custom banners for your Etsy store or facebook page


Ahhhh…the ever-changing face of the internet.  From new social media start-ups to the umpteen-million new websites that can be found on google each day, it’s basically a full time job if you want to get found out there in the inter-web world and your first “viewer” impression is critical.

Today, I’m not talking about search engine optimization or what the best e-commerce platform is, but I’m talking about making a killer banner for your Etsy (or facebook) page.

Last year at this time, I wasn’t working so I had more brain cells to devote to creating jewelry, homemade soaps, dog treats and such for our Etsy store.  I was able to put together a nice banner in no time at all.  This year after giving our Etsy store a facelift and reorganizing some departments, I realized the most important thing would be to update the banner.  This is one of the first visual impressions a customer will get when coming to our site or any site.  Unfortunately, this year it has proven to be a challenge to do this simple task-probably the happy brain cells I had last year while not working, promptly left when I started working in Camden, NJ for a sock manufacturer.  But that’s another story. :)

Anyway, I finally figured it out and wanted to write clear, concise steps for those of you, possibly not so computer savvy, looking for an easy (and free) way to update your banners.

I tried this on both and with the same, positive results.

Hopefully you have a great photo that will be indicative of the products you sell or something eye-catching for your facebook page to capture the viewer’s attention.  Photography is a whole different animal that I won’t tackle here, but make sure your picture is very clear, has interesting subject matter and good lighting.

Now, I will walk through the steps using picmonkey today, but both picmonkey and befunky are very similar in how you can edit the photo to make your banner.

1. Firstly, upload your photo


glass banner

2. Next, you will resize the photo.   Etsy banners need to be 760 wide x 100 tall (and Facebook banners should be 851 x 315).  So, using Picmonkey, I went into the “Resize” option on the left sidebar, entered 760 in the first box, but left whatever is in the next box as is for now so it will keep the proportion.  Hit the “apply” button so it will save your first edits.

3. Then, you will crop the photo. Using Picmonkey, I leave the drop down menu for cropping (once again, on the left sidebar) at “no fixed proportions” and then type in the boxes below, 760 x 100.  Here, you can drag the frame to whatever part of your photo you want to use.  This is where actually picking the photo comes in very important.  Make sure it’s something you can crop or use a small portion of.  Pick something that is horizontal, too!  Not a close up of a persons’ face, or you’ll wind up with possibly a great view up their nose with nothing else in the shot. Make sure you hit “apply”.

glass banner blog test

4. Now you have your picture where you can do the fun stuff; add blurry edges, frames, a starry sky or whatever you desire.  On Picmonkey, the choices to edit are along the side bar to the left.  So, for my purposes, I played around with some sparkles to highlight our “jewels” and then added a graduated darkening frame and our store name.  Be sure to play around.  There’s an undo button, so don’t worry.  Just have fun and you’ll wind up with a great creation!

glass banner4


And if you want to see this creation live, check out the link to our Etsy store.  We’d love to see you and I hope this was helpful!

Let me know if you have any questions or comments or how yours worked out!


Maple apple goodness


Tis the season for all things apple!  I was so pleased with how totally awesome (yes, I just said totally awesome) this recipe turned out.  It might have been a wee bit soggy, but hey, if you add 2 sticks of butter to anything you’re bound to have that problem. :)  I doubled this recipe and took it to the reception at church over the weekend that we hosted for after the big fall concert which went swimmingly, I might add!  You can’t go wrong with a room full of top notch, talented musicians from the Philadelphia area and even one flown in from Colorado!

This is a great way to use up those apples going bad on the counter.  Come on, I know you have them…you had every intention of eating them fresh as a snack, but then Halloween came and went and you were stuck with lots of candy.  If you’re a living, breathing human being, I know what you’d pick first.  Hhhhmmmmm; bruised, mealy apple or a Reeses peanut butter cup? ;)

So, here she is…the Glazed Apple Maple Blondie recipe!  Here is the original link from The Recipe Critic;

I used whole wheat flour instead and it worked out lovely.  Next time, I’ll try it with brown rice flour because this recipe is just begging to be gluten free!

***The only other note I may suggest, is to cook the sugar syrup a little longer.  I’m thinking that’s part of my “soggy” problem.  My glaze didn’t thicken as much as it probably should have.blondies boiling sugar syrup

Look at that gorgeous pot of boiling, bubbly, brown sugar and butter!




Riding a train through small town America


So many of us take for granted, that although there are millions of people using the New Jersey and New York train systems every single day, there are even more millions and probably billions, who have not had a chance to ride the train; in specific, from New Jersey into New York City.  So, this is a little memoir of my most recent trip which helped me gain a fresh perspective after I realized I got on the “slow” train, which makes additional stops in several small towns along the “northeast corridor” through North Jersey.

So, I got on the “slow train”, darn it.  Luckily, I left in plenty of time to arrive to my meeting in NYC, so I wasn’t in danger of being late; just annoyed.  However, once I settled in and realized there was nothing I could do and I didn’t have enough battery on my cell phone to constantly monitor my facebook page and 3 email accounts, I actually looked outside the window.  Do you know what I saw?  Small town America.  Real people and places whizzing by that cloudy piece of glass they call a window.  I first sat up and started paying close attention when the train began to slow down, arriving at its first stop.  Looking down from the train trestle, I noticed some women outside the local VFW hall, cigarette in one hand, a cup in the other.  “Haha, I thought to myself.  I could use a tall drink right about now, too.”  What are they doing there at 11:30 in the morning?  Is this their “Cheers” where everyone knows their name?  Where they feel loved and accepted?  Or are they avoiding the mounting piles of dishes in the kitchen at home?  Next door to the VFW, I noticed a car up on blocks with 2 denim-clad legs sticking out from underneath.  Watching the mechanic fiddling around under the vehicle for a brief minute or so before the train took off from the station, I became more amused by my “slow train” trip and started playing a game with myself to notice as much as I could.

Since this is NJ, the “Garden State”, there were definitely a lot of beautiful, fluffy trees along our one hour plus ride into the city, so it would catch my eye anytime I saw an opening between these gorgeous, green giants.  So many homes were built close to the railroad back in the day, because these were clearly not new homes I was seeing with beautiful, old, architectural details.  In fact, I could even see Fido’s toys in one backyard along with the neighbor’s piles of trash in theirs.  I found it interesting how some people take such good care of their property, while others let piles of garbage and junk accumulate.  Is there a rhyme or reason to it?  Maybe the neighbors were going through tough times, or maybe they just had other priorities than keeping their yard clean.  No judgment here, just an observation since my yard is no perfect oasis.  While I was posing that question to myself, some movement caught my eye as another view rolled by like a motion picture.  I got to see a little boy, about 12 or so, running as fast as he could around the baseball diamond to get to home base!  How fun!  They were playing ball in the middle of this sunny day.  No one watching from the stands, but these little guys were having a lot of fun.  Maybe playing hookey from school?  Ooops, someone got called “out”, I could tell by the hand gestures…What a cool capsule of small town America!

Moving right along, there are definitely some areas I would NOT like to get off the train.  Miles of graffiti and broken out windows tell tales about this next town, with what seemed like every other building surrounded in barbed wire fences and even a junk yard Rottweiler barking his head off at the passing train.  What happened here?  It looks like a warzone.  Once again, not judging, but what made what was probably a beautiful area into such a hate-filled place?  I could feel the anger oozing and pulled my jacket a little tighter.  Even the honeysuckle vine seemed to be struggling to come up through a massive pile of rubble along the side of the train tracks.  The train platform at this station looked mighty lonely.


Next stop, I saw some construction workers on lunch break sitting on the truck bed flap and eating lunch.  It was nice to see them smiling and clearly enjoying some time off the clock.  As we pulled away from the station, I realized these are the guys who probably put out all these new orange cones on the side of the track.  What a job to maintain this railroad!  I wonder what have these tracks seen in their years and who have they transported through the ages?  Meanwhile, the happy couple behind me on their first visit to the big city are happily chattering away, comparing opinions over the latest celebrity gossip magazine.

As we get closer to the city, I see more and more seabirds flying around.  There are also many more billboards and posters, advertising everything from the hottest new show on Broadway to choosing the hospital of your dreams.  Boom!  And then there was complete darkness; riding under the Hudson River.  That means my “slow train” is finally coming to an end.  I’ll just put this journal back into my purse now, careful to avoid the warm, gooey peanut butter and blackberry preserves sandwich that I didn’t eat.


Thanks for sharing this trip with me and letting me practice my writing on you.  After all, that’s what blogging is, isn’t it?  A chance to hone our writing skills while sharing our feelings and experiences with people we may never meet.  So, until next time, I’ll be taking the “slow train” on purpose.  I highly recommend it. ;)




A cake for dad


Sounds like a good movie title, huh? :)

Well, this is a little overdue, but I made this delicious German Chocolate Cake for my dad’s birthday a couple of weeks ago.  And let me preface with this; it was my first time baking in my new “old” home, complete with a circa 1950’s oven, and…my first German Chocolate Cake from scratch.  So, as you can see from the photo below, things turned out pretty darn well I’d say!

This is a great recipe I found on

Ok, and here’s another kicker for you; I made this “German” chocolate cake without the German chocolate baking squares.  I’m chuckling to myself at the irony, but it turned out really fantastic with a substitution of chocolate chips instead.

I added the “drizzle” too which was really easy to do; melt some chocolate and a little coconut oil in a bowl in the micro or a pan over the stove.

My “Granny” used to make this for my dad’s birthday every year when he was a child.  I wish I had her recipe, but I can only imagine how wonderful it was.  Meanwhile, I send out loving thoughts for my dad – I’m so glad I was able to do this for you this year.  You see, it’s been years and years since we lived close enough to spend the birthdays together as a family.  So, this past celebration was very special to me and I wish you many more happy, and healthy years, dad!  I love you!



delicious flashbacks


I’m back and boy, have I missed blogging!  In fact, since a dear member of my family has been in the hospital, Sheila, (my computer) I haven’t even thought about posting anything.  She may be able to get off life support and come home soon (fingers crossed), but she’s still at Dr. Erica’s office. :)  So today, I saw a glimmer of hope; I’ll write on my break at work today!

Over the Labor Day weekend, I made these two “flashback” recipes that were featured on my blog last year.  Since many of you are new followers, please take a look around my 2013 posts because this girl posted every day for 365 days last year.  Sometimes, I look back and think, “How the **** did I do that; amidst a cross country move, leaving a job with none to go to, finding a place to live, and everything else that went on in 2013?”  I don’t know, but I did it and I’m still a proud woman of my accomplishments.  Most importantly, I know I could not have done it without the “Big Man” upstairs.  He’s a great blogging mentor, :) so thank you, God!  You rock!

Entrez (means “enter” for the non-french speakers in the house) recipe #1:

Blueberry Banana Lavender Muffins.

Oh.  My.  Gosh.  They are still as good as I remember and I’m pretty sure Yankee Candle should pay me for the use of this scent for a new candle.  Here’s the original link with the recipe:

And recipe #2:

Chocolate Coconut Frosting Shots.  Get this;  they are almost healthy!  Maybe not if you eat the whole batch like I have been known to do, but 3 tiny ingredients make for an amazing treat.  If you follow Chocolate Covered Katie, who is an amazing cook/baker of all things sweet and healthy, it came from her site originally.  But here’s my link from last year with the recipe:


So, thanks for walking down memory lane with me today.  I hope you try these!  blue1 choc2





food on your face


Today, rather than expending my energies by ranting and raving my unusually aggressive opinions on facebook regarding a video I saw, ( it was a really minor thing, some kids at the Jersey shore were chasing a seal, which is extremely rare for these parts.  They didn’t hurt it, but I was insensed by the parents’ lack of say, “parenting”, or maybe the lack of common sense that this is a precious wild animal…not a play toy to put braids in its hair or play paintball with, but to enjoy from afar), I am going to share with you what happens when I get an overabundance of delicious strawberries!

Ok, there is no real good way to take pictures of having smashed up strawberries on your face that isn’t going to evoke images of the AMC’s fall premiere of The Walking Dead, but you will get the idea.  The facial mask I made was probably not as pureed as it should have been, but it still smelled like heaven and yes, it tasted great, too.  Aside from the grit of the rice, because I used a coffee grinder to pulverize plain, uncooked rice instead of buying rice powder, it worked pretty well.  I felt clean and certainly yummy.  Fingers were sucked on after application and I can’t say an occasional blob of strawberry goo didn’t pop into my mouth, too, but all in all, it was fun and turned out great.

Here is the original recipe I used and doctored up just a bit by substituting honey for the milk because it has great moisturizing properties, and it tastes better:

And heck, if you’re reading this and you aren’t into health and beauty, looks like you found yourself a DIY Halloween makeup recipe, at least!

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