Recipe: Cashew Brittle

I'd never made brittle before, so this was an experiment for me. It turned out, especially with the helpful high altitude directions. I'm not a huge cashew fan, but had received some as a gift. They're pretty good in this! If cashews aren't your thing either, you can substitute unsalted, raw Spanish peanuts.

This is from Betty Crocker Cookies and Bars November 2005.

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 cup light corn syrup
3 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 cups (12 oz) cashew halves

Heat oven to 200 degrees F. Grease two 15x 12 inch cookie sheets with butter; keep warm in oven. (Keeping sheets warm allows the candy to be spread 1/4 inch thick without it setting up.) Grease long metal spatula with butter; set aside (I didn't bother with this and had no problems with sticking.)

TBR Challenge Review: Pleasure Unbound by Larissa Ione

Format: Mass market paperback
Pub Date: July 2008
Publisher: Grand Central (Hachette)
Length: 389 pages
FTC: Traded for it through Paperback Swap over a year ago

So December's optional theme was holiday stories. Any holiday. And, being the holiday junkie I am, I didn't have any in the TBR. I read those as soon as they get into my hot little hands. So, I picked a demon book instead. Yeah, that just screams Ho Ho Ho doesn't it?

The main reason I picked this particular book is because Larissa Ione is on my List of Shame. The list of authors I haven't read yet, and anytime I mention that fact, I get exclamations of incredulity directed at me. Enough already! I've read her. And...


Review: His Mistress By Christmas by Victoria Alexander

Format: Hardcover (also available as an ebook)
Pub Date: Oct 1, 2011
Publisher: Kensington
FTC: Review copy courtesy of the publisher

If you're looking for an angsty, deep book about the holidays, this isn't it. If you're looking for a clever book about two people who stumble into love around Christmas, this is the book for you.

Set in the late 1800s in England, His Mistress by Christmas is a dialogue-heavy book where most of the plot is carried by the characters' interactions. And not just between the heroine and hero. As is typical with Ms. Alexander's style, there are friends and family littered throughout the novel. Each unique, interfering, and with their own opinion about the main romance. 


Pearl Harbor Rememberance Day

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  With all of the attention given to September 11 every year, it's easy to forget that it wasn't the first time we had been attacked. And we aren't the only ones to have to deal with the horror of the war that followed.

Over 1,000 men lost their lives on the USS Arizona, alone. Many of them are still entombed there. I hope we continue to mark the anniversary of the attack as a way to honor those who were killed as well as the entire generation (my grandparent's generation) who served or grew up during WWII.

FDR's Pearl Harbor Address:

Life has put together a collection of rare photos of the aftermath of the attack, which you can see here:


Recipe: Caramel Pecan Shortbread Cookies

This is the most-requested cookie on my holiday cookie tray. The recipe is from Land o Lakes.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

30 unwrapped caramels
1 tablespoon half and half
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Heat oven to 325°F. Combine butter, powdered sugar and brown sugar in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Reduce speed to low; add flour, baking powder and salt. Beat until well mixed.

Press dough evenly into 8-inch square baking pan lined with aluminum foil; prick with tines of fork every 1/2 inch. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Lift cookies from pan using aluminum foil. Immediately cut into 20 (approximately 4x1/2 inch) sticks. Cool completely.

Place caramels and half & half in microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on HIGH, stirring twice, until caramels are melted (1 to 2 minutes). Dip ends of shortbread sticks into melted caramel mixture; roll in pecans. Place onto waxed paper; let stand until set.


Review: Scandalous Desires by Elizabeth Hoyt

Format: mass market paperback
Pub Date: November 2011
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Length: 370 pages
FTC: Review copy courtesy of the publisher

I haven't read an Elizabeth Hoyt book in a long, long time. I'd forgotten how awesome she is. Her heroes, especially, are always a bit edgy, which I love.

This book is for all of those who are suffering under Regency England overload. Not only is this not set in a shiny ballroom, stuffed full of eligible aristocrats, the hero is a river pirate. That's right, a RIVER PIRATE. How awesome is that? And although there is a baron as a secondary character, most of the characters are of common stock.


Happy Holiday Season!

November was a really bad month for my blogging and reading. Here's hoping December is much, much better!

I'm super excited today because it is our tree lighting here in town. We call it Sparkle, and for us it means that the merchants stay open late (instead of closing up shop at 6pm), there are free nibbles everywhere (including the best pumpkin fudge at the Drug Store), and everyone who has moved away that can manage comes back for a holiday visit. It's like a giant, town-sized reunion.

And let's not forget the Truckers' Light Parade. Yes. It is exactly what it sounds like. Big rigs, tow trucks, fire trucks, log trucks, snow plows etc are decorated in Christmas lights and driven around Main St. It's as silly as it sounds, but the kids are always wowed by it.

So, anyway, today is the official kick-off-the-holiday-season day in my neck of the woods. What do you do in your area?


December 1 is World AIDS Day

It seems as though AIDS has faded into the background of our consciousness these days. Or it's mentioned in passing as an epidemic in Africa. But AIDS is a global epidemic. Having grown up during the height of the epidemic, when diagnosis meant a quick and painful death and there was no drug cocktail to prevent HIV from becoming AIDS, I haven't forgotten. People are still being infected. People are still dying from this disease. And there is still NO cure.

Please take a moment today to think about this disease and those who suffer with it.


TBR Challenge Review: Zero Dog War by Keith Melton

Format: ebook
Pub date: Feb 2011
Publisher: Samhain
FTC: Purchased myself
Why it was in the TBR: Bought it based on tons of positive buzz on release day, then never read it. Yeah, I suck.

These last few months have been crazy busy with RL obligations and events, so my reading tally isn't very good. It's pretty dismal, actually. The TBR Challenge is a good way to force my procrastinating self to finish a dang book, though. This month's theme, something other than romance, was also a good excuse to dig through my Kindle backlog and find a book I'd forgotten I had.


Audio review: Angel's Blood by Nalini Singh

Format: Audible download
Release Date: 5/7/10
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Length: 10 hrs 32 min
Narration: Justine Eyre
FTC: Purchased myself

I've been steadily working my way through the shamefully long list of authors I haven't tried yet, but who have been recommended to me from multiple sources. At a blogger dinner I attended back in April, everyone was raving about Nalini Singh. Most of the praise centered around her Psy-Changeling series, but it was the Guild Hunter books that appealed, so I started there.


So You Think You Can Write: Harlequin Conference November 7-11

Want to write a romance novel? Harlequin is holding its 2nd annual So You Think You Can Write event November 7-11, 2011. More information can be found on the website: http://www.soyouthinkyoucanwrite.com/

From the press release:

So You Think You Can Write allows hopeful romance novelists to spend an entire working week with more than 50 Harlequin editors through social media tools such as podcasts, videos, webinars, blog posts, community discussions and Twitter. Aspiring authors have the opportunity to learn valuable insider tips and have their writing samples critiqued by professional editors. 
There's a contest to go along with it that includes a chance to receive a publishing contract with  Harlequin.

You can also find more information by following along on Twitter.


Heroes and Heartbreakers: RIMBYs

How do you feel about romances in your backyard? Love them? Hate them? C'mon over and chat with me at Heroes and Heartbreakers today. 


Review: Romancing the Countess by Ashley March

Format: mass market, ebook
Pub Date: September 6, 2011
Publisher: Signet
Length: 320 pages
FTC: Review copy provided by the publisher

I'm not normally a fan of books that deal, even indirectly, with infidelity. It's just not a favorite theme of mine. Romancing the Countess surprised me, though, by the way it takes two characters linked by that ultimate betrayal and fashions a new, happier story for them.

I think this is one of those books that people will love or hate. It's hard to assign a grade to, at least for me, because it is so very angsty. Sebastian, in particular, is wounded by the discovery that the wife he loved so deeply was having an affair and died while trying to leave him. He's angry as well (with good reason) and I felt for him.

The writing is excellent. So good, that I felt Sebastian was damaged. Too wounded for me to believe he would recover so quickly from it to fall in love again. Especially with someone who could daily remind him of that betrayal.  This was a deep, well  done story, but because I'm unsure of the HEA, I'm lowering the grade just a little.

My Grade: B+

The Blurb:
Sebastian Madinger, the Earl of Wriothesly, thought he'd married the perfect woman-until a fatal accident revealed her betrayal with his best friend. After their deaths, Sebastian is determined to avoid a scandal for the sake of his son. But his best friend's widow is just as determined to cast her mourning veil aside by hosting a party that will surely destroy both their reputations and expose all of his carefully kept secrets...
Leah George has carried the painful knowledge of her husband's affair for almost a year. All she wants now is to enjoy her independence and make a new life for herself-even if that means being ostracized by the Society whose rules she was raised to obey. Now that the rumors are flying, there's only one thing left for Sebastian to do: silence the scandal by enticing the improper widow into becoming a proper wife. But when it comes to matters of the heart, neither Sebastian nor Leah is prepared for the passion they discover in each other's arms....


The woods are lovely, dark and deep

Since I am suffering from earthquake hangover due to the 4.7M earthquake that woke me out of a nice, comfy snooze last night, I decided today would be the day I took a walk in the woods. There's a lovely outdoor education program up here, with equally lovely trails situated near our elementary school. I figured if kids can walk it, I can too.

So, huffing and puffing (and toting my camera) I walked up Boyle's Ravine. At least a little way.

This doesn't look too bad, right? It gets steeper. Wheeze.


Hump Day Classic Movie: The Watcher in the Woods (1980)

Raise your hand if this movie scared you as a child/adult. When I was little, The Watcher in the Woods was constantly on the television. And no matter how many times I saw it, it scared me. Something about Bette Davis's creepiness gives me the chills even now. (Although NCIS junkie that I am, I can now enjoy the incredibly young David McCallum aka Duckie)

Honestly, it's hard to believe this is a Disney movie. Disney is so toothless anymore. But if you need a Halloween movie that is spooky without being gory, this is it. (I know I mentioned this in passing last year, but it really does deserve its own Hump Day post.)

The trailer is available on youtube here:

If you want something more modern this Halloween, try Monster House. It's a little intense for really young children, but it has lovely animation and lots of heart.


TBR Challenge Review: Soulless by Gail Carriger

Format: ebook (also available on audio and mass market paperback)
Pub Date: 2009
Publisher: Orbit
Length: 384
FTC: Purchased myself


I am a sucky TBR Challenge participant. This makes the third month in a row I've procrastinated on my challenge read. Although it's the first time I've actually MISSED the posting day. Apologies for my suckiness.

Anyhoo, this month's topic was paranormal or romantic suspense.  I finally managed to read a book I've had on my Kindle for months (maybe a year?) and whose praise I've been hearing for even longer: Soulless by Gail Carriger.

Billed as a steampunk romance, I can say with confidence that it's really not. There are a few scattered elements that may qualify, but they are minimal window dressing. Gaslight? Maybe. Paranormal? Definitely.


Review: Viscount Breckenridge to the Rescue by Stephanie Laurens

Format: Mass market pb
Pub Date: August 2011
Publisher: Avon
Length: 440 pages
FTC: Purchased myself

I am a hopeless Stephanie Laurens addict. Hope. Less. I own most of the original Bar Cynster in hardcover. A Secret Love is one of my all-time favorite books. But even I had to admit that the last series Stephanie Laurens put out was...not good. A few of the books in the Black Cobra Quartet were downright unreadable. At least for me. With this book, she's returning to her successful Cynster series and sounding more like her old self.

For the uninitiated, Stephanie Laurens has a very specific voice. Certain phrases crop up. And there are OMG-will-it-never-end? sex scenes. And horse metaphors. But the books are STILL addictive.


Review: Joanne Fluke's Lake Eden Cookbook

Format: Hardcover, ebook
Publisher: Kensington
Pub Date: October 1, 2011
Length: 320 pages
FTC: Review copy courtesy of the publisher

I've seen a few cookbooks based on popular series come and go over the years, but this is the first one that I can say did a good job capturing the feel of the series on which it was based.

There are zero pictures in the Lake Eden Cookbook. It is, instead, a hardcover copy of what one would expect from a real community cookbook. The kind you buy from churches or as a fundraiser where everyone contributes a recipe or two and the notes/serving suggestions are delightfully informal. There's even a full color map of the town on the endsheets.

The recipes themselves are mostly baking ones (in line with what Joanne Fluke's readers would expect). There are a few, homey recipes for main dishes as well. This book has all of the recipes from the series so far as well as about a dozen new ones. The only thing that bugs me is that the butter used is "salted" and I'm an unsalted butter purist. *Shrug*

Bottom line: This is a well done series tie-in book. It might not fit the bill for those who want photos to work from, but it will make an excellent holiday gift for any culinary mystery fan. Well done.

My Grade: A-


Hump Day Movie: Once Bitten (1985)

I'm not a huge Jim Carrey fan. Most of his movies annoy the heck out of me. But I have a soft spot for this one.

Don't get me wrong. Once Bitten sucks. (Pun intended) But it's also fun to watch Carrey at the beginning of his career, before he went all crazy and weird and was just plain goofy.

 Plus, how can you resist with a plot like this: A vampire Countess needs to drink the blood of a virgin in order to keep her eternal beauty. It seems that all is hopeless, until she bumps into Mark Kendall.


Cookbook Review: Junior's Dessert Cookbook by Alan Rosen, Beth Allen

Junior's Dessert Cookbook: 75 Recipes for Cheesecakes, Pies, Cookies, Cakes, and More

Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Taunton
Pub Date: October 2011
Length: 192 pages
FTC: Digital review galley from the publisher

I was looking forward to reviewing this cookbook, since I loved the original Junior's cookbook. But unfortunately, the recipes were not to my taste. I love baking, as followers of the blog know very well, but not when every recipe calls for dozens of ingredients and the instructions take up two full pages.

The few easy recipes in the book are so overly simplistic, they feel like filler.

Bottom line is that I wasn't even tempted to try the recipes. I was turned off by their complexity. This might work for someone with pastry chef-like dedication or someone who really wants to stretch their abilities. But for the average, everyday chef, it's a small book filled with yummy looking, but intimidating recipes. I'd far rather buy most of these desserts than make them. And maybe that's the point?

Also, this is a hardcover with a list price of $25 for a grand total of 75 recipes and 192 pages. No. Just no. 

My Grade: C-


Tis the Season to be Sinful by Adrienne Basso

Format:Mass Market, ebook
Pub Date: October 1, 2011
Publisher: Kensington
Length: 343 pages
FTC: Review copy courtesy of the publisher

There's a lovely, old-fashioned feel to the prose in Tis the Season to be Sinful. It's one of the few books I've read recently that feels thoroughly steeped in the period. But, unfortunately, the conflict is all over the place, the characters somewhat shallow, and the holiday elements seem more engaging than the romance.

My problems with the book center mainly around the lack of focus to the story. It seems like it's just not sure which problem it wants to explore about our hero (our heroine seems marginalized throughout.) Do we explore the working class values of the American? His inability to join in with Christmas festivities? His absence from the new home he married to get for months on end? Or his strained non-relationship with his wife's children?  There are so many different mini-conflicts in this book that all are dealt with in an unsatisfying and superficial way.

While this book did its job, it's not something I'll be reading again. I loved the holiday elements, but for some reason, the romance was just...ok. Since I did manage to read it in only a couple of sittings, I'm giving it higher marks than it might sound like it deserves.

My Grade: C

The Blurb:
The Season For Surprises. . .
Juliet Wentworth knew what she was getting into: a marriage of convenience that will save her estate and protect her family long into the future. But she wasn't expecting to find the passion of a lifetime in her new husband's arms. After just one night, Juliet knows a marriage in name only will never be enough. . .
The Season For Seduction. . .
Richard Harper's beautiful new bride has him reeling with desire--and running for cover. After all, falling in love was never part of the bargain. Yet when Christmastime celebrations bring him back to their country manor and back into Juliet's arms, Richard finds his wife is determined--and all too able--to win over his heart, one kiss at a time. . .


Review: A Beginner's Guide to Rakes by Suzanne Enoch

Format: mass market paperback, ebook
Pub Date: October 4, 2011
Publisher: St. Martin's
Length: 339 pages
FTC:  Review copy courtesy of the publisher

Let's just get this out of the way: the title, A Beginner's Guide to Rakes,  has zip to do with the story. Nada. Zilch. Squat. It's a throwaway title. And that pisses me off a little because this plot could have had so many good titles for it. Some hint about the contents. But...no. There is no guide. And the "hero" isn't really a rake, either.

The basic premise: a destitute widow blackmails an old lover into funding her plans for a gaming club. The club, the Tantalus Club to be precise, is located in the downstairs portion of her only remaining residence, having sold all other property to settled her deceased husband's debts.

When I heard Enoch was moving to a new publisher, I was, quite frankly, a bit worried. She has a unique voice. Her characters are nearly always smart, witty, and give as good as they get. That isn't missing here, but the book as a whole reads a little more bitter and sharp in tone than most of Enoch's backlist. There's very little real humor here. And nearly no family dynamic, which tends to soften some of the Enoch books.

Hump Day Movie: Muppets from Space (1999)

With the new Muppet movie coming out soon, Muppets are back in style. At least in this household. The boys are finally enjoying our (vast) collection of Muppet movies. And while I love The Great Muppet Caper or the original Muppet Movie, my favorite is Muppets from Space. It's one of the newest muppet movies, and has some of the newer characters I adore. Like Pepe the Prawn.

The plot revolves around Gonzo. We all know he's a "whatever." But what we don't know is exactly what that is. We find out in this movie. And, as with all of the Muppet movies, there are some hilarious cameos. My favorite is Ray Liotta's where Miss Piggy fogs his brain with a mind control perfume.

A big part of what makes this fun for me is the soundtrack. It's wall to wall funk. An usual choice for the Muppets, but I think it works.

And, while looking up info on the new movie, I discovered a wealth of Youtube videos featuring muppets: classics and new ones! Including this one, which is so silly I was gasping with laughter.


Review: Bad Boys Do by Victoria Dahl

Format: mass market paperback, ebook
Pub Date: September 27, 2011
Publisher: HQN
Length: 384 pages
FTC: Review copy courtesy of the publisher

Without a doubt, this is my favorite book of Victoria Dahl's new Donovan Brothers brewery trilogy. A sexy, vulnerable and yummy hero and a smart, compassionate, and sexually insecure heroine. With plenty of sizzle and outrageous humor to keep the pages turning.

Victoria Dahl's heroines are always interesting. Olivia is fascinating. I love that she's a mix of repressed sexuality and insecurity combined with a level headed competency.

Jamie is probably Dahl's best hero. He's so vulnerable. Sexy but with this inner core of neediness that just gets to you. In the first book of the series, he seems immature, selfish, but possessing a good heart. The second book, his book, shows that the immaturity isn't as real as his family perceives. His family really doesn't know him that well.Which is part of the tragedy in Jamie's life. Despite being so charming and friendly, no one is truly close to him.


Review: Unclaimed by Courtney Milan

Format: mass market, ebook
Pub Date: October 2011
Publisher: HQN (Harlequin)
Length:432 pages
FTC: Digital review copy courtesy of the publisher


I love Courtney Milan's writing. It's very smart, with smart characters, smart dialogue and smart premises. Sometimes, though, it's a little too smart. And that was the case with Unclaimed.

The concept of this book was definitely unique: a virgin hero and a courtesan heroine. Everyone struggles with the concept of chastity in this book. Especially the heroine:

"But you're–you're—A virgin?"
There was a note of amusement in his voice. "True. But just because I don't believe in poaching out of season doesn't mean I can't hunt."

I loved Mark Turner. I loved his honesty, his self awareness, his compassion. I did not love the heroine. It wasn't her profession. It was her choices. It was her mercenary nature. It was her lack of honesty throughout the first 2/3 of the book.


Author Interview: Ashley March

Please join me in welcoming historical romance author Ashley March to the blog! Her new book, Romancing the Countess, was released earlier in the month.

Why historical romance? 

Thanks so much for having me today, Amber! The simple answer to this question is that it’s the type of romance that hooked me on the genre. I think my first year of reading romance mostly consisted of historicals checked out from my local library, and my favorite authors were Jude Deveraux and Catherine Coulter.

My love in reading historical romance has led me to a love for writing it. But now I realize that I also write it because I love exploring relationships in different time periods and countries. There are a lot of possibilities when the entire world’s history and cultures are open to you.

Are there other genres you're interested in exploring?

Yes! For romance specifically, my first contemporary novella will be released in the SWEET TALK ME anthology out in November of this year. I have plans for a contemporary series after that, but no finalized details yet on when it will be published. I also have a few ideas for YA romance… The funny thing about writing is that it seems the longer you write, the more your mind is open to all sorts of stories.

I also have a few mainstream ideas, although I’m not sure when I’ll have the time to write them. One’s a book of my heart, though, so I hope it’s soon. =)

How do you balance mom duties with writing?

I don’t sleep very much. In fact, as I answer this specific interview question, it’s currently 12:30am. But I’m having fun, and that’s what matters to me the most. =)

Apart from that, I have an absolutely terrific husband. We’re both staying at home right now, and we usually take shifts with the girls during the daytime so that we can each have time to work. At night after the kids go to bed, I work until early morning. He helps out a ton with the cooking and cleaning and other household chores so I can devote most of my free time to writing and the writing business.

Who is your favorite fictional character?

I’ve answered about literary fictional characters in the past, but I’m going to have to answer the question now with a cartoon fictional character. I LOVED Darkwing Duck. =) So much, actually, that I know I’m going to be buying the DVDs for my daughters when they get older.  (I have to admit, though, that Bugs Bunny is a very, very close second.)

Both your hero and heroine in Romancing the Countess have experienced unfaithful marriages. Did that create any special challenges when telling their story?

In my mind I knew this was a very special story right from the beginning. I didn’t want to treat it irreverently and gloss over the characters’ individual pain. But in the end, it’s still a romance, and the most challenging part was at the beginning, when I had to walk a very thin line between allowing the characters space to move on individually before the time came for their romance to start developing. I had to show that, even though they didn’t immediately fall in love, there was still something there between them, an awareness—not a sexual awareness, necessarily—but still something that made them take notice of one another.

You begin each chapter with an excerpt from letters written by the hero's unfaithful wife (and written to the heroine's cheating husband). And throughout the course of the novel, your heroine, Leah, reads them. I thought that a unique (and brave) idea. Did you start out with those epigraphs in mind or were they something you added as the novel progressed?

Thank you. To be honest it was something my editor suggested when the book was finished, so I went back through and added them after the story was already complete. And I think she’s a genius for the idea, because I believe it adds an entirely new depth to the story that we wouldn’t have without it. The deceased spouses become part of their own romance in a way, instead of the typical villains they would have been otherwise.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently hosting a reader-interactive online novella on my website each week (see www.ashleymarch.com/novella), where readers can read a new chapter every Tuesday and then vote for what they want to have happen next in the story. When the novella is finished it will be self-published, with 25% of proceeds going to a charity I choose (probably something to do with children).

I’m also finishing edits for my third Signet book. MY LADY RIVAL is the launch of a new Victorian series called A Belgrave Square Affair, and I’m so excited to share these characters with my readers! It is scheduled to release on May 1, 2012.

I also have a few other projects in the works for both 2011 and 2012. Readers can keep up with all the details for what’s coming next by visiting me at www.ashleymarch.com/coming-soon or by subscribing to my newsletter at www.ashleymarch.com/email.

Alright, I have to hear it. Whether you were born in the first half of the 20th century or the second half, I’m sure you watched cartoons. What is your favorite cartoon character?

One random commenter will be chosen to win a copy of my newest book, ROMANCING THE COUNTESS (open internationally)! Also, find out how to win the ROMANCING THE COUNTESS Book Tour Grand Prize of 50+ romance novels by visiting www.ashleymarch.com!  


Recipe: Fresh Peach Cake

Thanks to a generous neighbor, I had a few peaches to use up. This is a wonderful breakfast cake and goes together fairly quickly. I made it without the pecans, and it tasted just fine. Although I bet it would be way more delicious WITH.

I bet this would be just as yummy with other fruit as well.

Fresh Peach Cake by Ina Garten

  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature 
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature 
  • 1 cup sour cream, at room temperature 
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • 3 large, ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced 
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and 1 cup of the sugar for 3 to 5 minutes on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at a time, then the sour cream and vanilla, and mix until the batter is smooth. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix just until combined. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and the cinnamon.

Spread half of the batter evenly in the pan. Top with half of the peaches, then sprinkle with two-thirds of the sugar mixture. Spread the remaining batter on top, arrange the remaining peaches on top, and sprinkle with the remaining sugar mixture and the pecans. Bake the cake for 45 to 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Hey, Look! I'm at H&H

Today, I'm over at Heroes and Heartbreakers talking about single genre romance readers. I'd love for you to stop by and say hello! (It's my very first blog post there, so I'm a teensy bit nervous.)


Banned Books Week September 24-October 1

I'm always surprised by the books people choose to take issue with.  Here is a list of books challenged in May 2010-May 2011. 

(PDF) http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/banned/bannedbooksweek/ideasandresources/free_downloads/2011banned.pdf

Included in the list:
  • Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • The Catcher in Rye by JD Salinger
  • Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson


TBR Challenge Review: No Mercy by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Format: Hardcover (also available in mm paperback, ebook)
Pub Date: September 2010
Publisher: St. Martins Press
Length: 343 pages
FTC: Purchased myself

Once again, I'm squeaking in under the wire on the TBR Challenge post. This month's theme is series catchup...a book from a series you're behind in.  With the publication of Retribution, I was 2 books behind in the Dark-Hunter series. The last book I read, Bad Moon Rising, was so awful that I refused to buy another Kenyon book in hardcover. And since my library's romance selection sucks...well, it's been a year since No Mercy came out and I'm just now getting to it via a remaindered copy I picked up on clearance.

The good news? No Mercy doesn't suck nearly as hard as Bad Moon Rising did. It's a complete book (which BMR wasn't), the characters don't have a personality change mid-book (which BMR did), and the dialogue is far less sappy and more snarky. Which is something I had forgotten about the Dark Hunter series and really enjoyed while reading No Mercy.


Get Ready for Banned Books Week: September 24-October 1

Catcher in the Rye . . . Harry Potter . . . Captain Underpants . . .
Every year, there are hundreds of attempts to remove books from schools and libraries. Celebrate YOUR freedom to read and right to choose your book during Banned Books Week, September 24 to October 1, 2011. For more information, visit http://www.ala.org/bbooks.


Recipe: Blackberry Swirl Pound Cake

Blackberry Swirl Pound Cake
Recipe from Martha Stewart
(Photos and adjustments are mine)

I made this the other day to use some of the blackberries I had picked off of the vine. The berries are late this year, so I only managed to pick a few cups. Fortunately, this recipe only takes 1 1/3 cups (which means it won't cost you an arm and a leg if you have to buy your berries).

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
6 ounces blackberries (1 1/3 cups)
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter (I use butter spray) a 5-by-9-inch loaf pan and line with parchment, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides; butter parchment. In a food processor, puree blackberries with 2 tablespoons sugar. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together butter and 1 1/4 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat to combine, scraping down bowl as needed. With mixer on low, add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

Transfer half the batter to pan (smoothing the layer down) and dot with 1/2  blackberry puree. Repeat with remaining batter and puree. With knife or skewer, swirl batter and puree together. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 1 1/4 hours. Let cool in pan on a wire rack, 30 minutes. Lift cake out of pan and place on a serving plate; let cool completely before slicing. (Yes, you really do need to let it cool. This is a delicate, dense cake that slices beautifully when cool).

(My attempt didn't swirl as well as it should have, but tasted fine just the same. The blackberry ends up with a taste and texture similar to jam.)


Happy Holidays! Oh wait...

It seems like Christmas merchandise creeps onto the shelves earlier and earlier every year. I've spotted Christmas crafts in July, and the holiday decorations are popping up in big boxes as soon as the back to school promos come down.

And with the holiday decor comes the holiday romances. Many of them with publication dates of September and October. Before Halloween! And there are a ton of them coming out this year. (See pictures and links below the break.)

I personally love holiday romances, but they do seem kind of risky for authors. Their sales season is fairly short (although there are some, like me, who read them all year long.) And so many of them center around Christmas, which means they risk alienating those who celebrate other winter holidays like Hanukkah or Kwanza.

What do you think of holiday romances? Do you love them, hate them, or just feel kind of meh? And are you like me, and read them all year long or do you only read them close to the holidays?


Hump Day Classic Movie: The Last Starfighter

My husband did the snoopy dance in the middle of Safeway when he spotted this little gem on Blu-ray. He loves those early 80s space movies. Loves, loves, loves. Me? I like them in a campy way, but still make fun of the horrible special effects. I almost prefer the string method of spaceship effects in those 1950s movies to the early computer animated stuff.

In this movie, a teenager stuck in the middle of nowhere, living with his family in a trailer park, dreams of doing big things. But circumstances constantly force him to put others before himself. His only escape is a video game (a really primitive arcade style game!) called the Last Starfighter.

After one really bad day, he retreats to the game and manages to break the all time record. Little does he realize that the game was a test, and soon he's recruited by an alien(!) to become a Starfighter.

Yes, it really is that silly. But other than a few explosions and some mild sexual references, it's much tamer than anything but children's movies being put out today.


Stuck in a Rut: The Dreaded Reading Slump Hits

I've been a little quiet on the blog this last week. And that's due in part to the fact that I haven't managed to finish a book ALL WEEK. I normally read 2-5 books a week, depending on length and what else I have going on in my real life. Not getting even one book read? It's a horrible feeling.

It's not that I don't have plenty to read. I'm in the middle of 6 books right now. I seem to be getting to about the 100-150 page mark and then losing interest. I'm in the home stretch of summer, only 1 more week until school starts for the kids, but I just can't seem to finish *anything*. It's really annoying.

I'm reading all kinds of different genres, so I don't think that's it. Maybe I need a reread or a novella to break me out of this funk.  What do you do when a reading slump hits?

Waiting on Wednesday: Devil's Kiss by Zoë Archer (Hellraisers #1)

 Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted over at Breaking the Spine. It highlights books we just can't wait to get our greedy, book-loving hands on.

I adored the Blades of the Rose series by Zoe Archer. I love her writing, period. So, naturally, I can't wait to read her new series: the Hellraisers.

Pub Date: December 6, 2011
Publisher: Kensington
Format: mass market paperback, ebook
Length: 370 pages

The Blurb:
A Handsome Devil
1762. James Sherbourne, Earl of Whitney, is a gambling man. Not for the money. But for the thrill, the danger--and the company: Whit has become one of the infamous Hellraisers, losing himself in the chase for adventure and pleasure with his four closest friends.

Which was how Whit found himself in a gypsy encampment, betting against a lovely Romani girl. Zora Grey's smoky voice and sharp tongue entrance Whit nearly as much as her clever hands--watching them handle cards inspires thoughts of another kind...

Zora can't explain her attraction to the careless blue-eyed Whit. She also can't stop him and his Hellraisers from a fiendish curse: the power to grant their own hearts' desires, to chase their pleasures from the merely debauched to the truly diabolical. And if Zora can't save Whit, she still has to escape him. . .


Waiting on Wednesday: Dark Predator by Christine Feehan

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted over at Breaking the Spine. It highlights books we just can't wait to get our greedy, book-lovin' hands on.

This one is a shout out for my mom, the hopeless Christine Feehan addict. There's a new Dark series book coming out on September 6th. Which means only 2 more weeks of waiting for her. This is the story she's been waiting years for.

Dark Predator
Format: Hardcover, ebook
Pub Date: September 6, 2011
Publisher: Berkley hardcover
Length: 384 pages

The Blurb:

As brutal as the undead he hunted, Zacarias De La Cruz was a master executioner. Now his stark and savage journey has ended. For his brothers, Zacarias had walked to the edge of madness, but with centuries as a killing machine now left to the past and without a hunt to define him, Zacarias wonders, for the first time in his life, who he really is.
The answer awaits him back home, in Peru, in the betrayal of a woman who is readying her trap, in the vengeance of an old enemy, in the inevitable consequences of a bloody family legacy-and in the deliverance of a lifemate he never could have imagined...


Recipe: Blueberry Scones with Lemon Glaze

Recipe by Tyler Florence (with a few adjustments by moi.)

Blueberry Scones:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut in chunks
1 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing the scones
1 cup fresh blueberries

Lemon Glaze:
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 lemon, zest finely grated
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Sift together the dry ingredients; the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Using 2 forks or a pastry blender, cut in the butter to coat the pieces with the flour. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center and pour in the heavy cream. Fold everything together just to incorporate; do not overwork the dough. Fold the blueberries into the batter. Take care not to mash or bruise the blueberries because their strong color will bleed into the dough. (I usually end up moving the blueberries around by hand, as the dough is really stiff and not really amenable to "folding.")

Press the dough out on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle about 12 by 3 by 1 1/4 inches. Cut the rectangle in 1/2 then cut the pieces in 1/2 again, giving you 4 (3-inch) squares. Cut the squares in 1/2 on a diagonal to give you the classic triangle shape. Place the scones on an ungreased cookie sheet and brush the tops with a little heavy cream. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until beautiful and brown. Let the scones cool a bit before you apply the glaze.

Mix the lemon juice and confectioners' sugar together in a microwave-safe bowl. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the lemon zest and butter. Nuke it for 30 seconds on high. Whisk the glaze to smooth out any lumps, then drizzle the glaze over the top of the scones. Let it set a minute before serving. (The glaze has been halved from Tyler's original recipe. It is a thin glaze that disappears into the scone and leaves behind a tart/sweet shiny finish. If you want a thicker glaze, add more powdered sugar.)

These are tender, moist, and not too sweet. 

My self congratulatory picture at left confirms it! 


TBR Challenge Review: Mesmerized by Lauren Dane

Format: Trade Paperback
Publisher: Berkley Heat (Penguin)
Pub Date: April 2011
Length: 294 pages
FTC: Purchased myself

The blurb:
Andrei Solace delivers death on silent feet as an assassin for the Phantom Corps. Mercenary Piper Roundtree thought she was over him. But against the backdrop of an impending war, their passion is rekindled. Now the lovers must join forces- in more ways than one-to save the Known Universe before the Imperialist enemy hurls it into irreversible chaos.

I'm a little late today getting this review written because...um...I just finished the book. Which I started today. This month's TBR Challenge theme was "spicy." I picked this book up at the RT Convention signing back in April. (Along with about 50 other books from the signing and convention.)

I'm struggling to give a grade to this book. It was compelling enough to read off and on all day. I didn't feel the urge to walk away from it. But I also felt really disconnected from the two main characters. I didn't plug-in to their emotions in the way I prefer. I'm not sure if it's something about Lauren Dane's voice that didn't click with me or if I was just too hung up on the Star Wars/Star Trek parallels.

Waiting on Wednesday: To Wed a Wild Lord by Sabrina Jeffries

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted over at Breaking the Spine. It highlights books we just can't wait to get our greedy book loving hands on.

I've read 3 out of 4 of the books in this series and have liked them all. (I will probably go back and read the one I missed, too.) I have to admit, I'm not a fan of this cover, though.

Format: Mass market paperback, ebook
Pub Date: November 22, 2011
Publisher: Pocket
Length: 384 pages

The Blurb: 

Like everything daredevil Gabriel Sharpe does, pursuing Virginia Waverly is a high-stakes game. Ever since her brother Roger died racing Lord Gabriel, Virginia has yearned to take her revenge on the reckless lord by beating him at his own sport. But when she challenges Lord Gabriel to a race, the hellion who has always embraced his dark reputation as the “Angel of Death” counters with a marriage proposal!

Gabe knows Virginia's family is in dire financial straits—why shouldn’t she marry him and solve both their problems? She claims to be appalled by his proposal, but her response to his kisses says otherwise. So when the two of them begin to unravel the truth behind Roger’s death, Gabe takes the greatest gamble of all, offering the cunning and courageous beauty something more precious than any inheritance: true love.


Indie is NOT Self Pubbed

I'm a little irritated this morning. There's been a brief discussion on Dear Author and a lengthier one on Twitter about this issue, but I still feel the need to rant a bit.

Self publishing is the bastard stepchild of the book world. The only thing worse according to many is vanity press. Self publishing has a reputation that makes that term synonymous with a slush pile of unedited, poorly written dreck.

Now that publishing is changing, and self publishing is having a few successes, there are some self published authors who are trying to use the term "indie" to refer to themselves. The problem is that the term is already taken. If self pubbers want to use a different term to describe themselves, more power to them. But they shouldn't do it by preempting a term that has been in use in the publishing business for decades.

An indie author is someone signed with an indie press. An indie press is also sometimes known as a small press, but not always. An independent press is to publishing as an independent record label is to the music industry. It's not owned by a large conglomerate which is then owned by an even larger media company. It's a stand-alone business.

Wiki has several pertinent sentences as well:

The terms "small press", "indie publisher", and "independent press" are often used interchangeably, with "independent press" defined as publishers that are not part of large conglomerates or multinational corporation.

and this

The majority of small presses are independent or indie publishers, this means that they are separate from the handful of major publishing house conglomerates, such as Random House or Hachette. The term 'indie publisher' should not be confused with 'self publisher', which is where the author publishes only their own books.

We don't consider an indie music artist as someone putting out records in his or her basement. We consider them musicians signed with an indie label instead of one of the big music companies like Sony or Warner.  The same concept applies with indie authors and indie pubs.

Why does it matter? It matters because conflating indie with self publication confuses the reader. And confusing/deceiving the reader is a bad thing. I don't care how many extra sales you think you'll get, once deceived, a reader will not only NOT buy your book, they'll tell every other person they can not to buy your book.

Indies are true publishing houses. They are a PRESS. They publish more than the work of a single author. They have editors who acquire or reject based on taste and quality. This is an entirely different thing from self publication.

Most writers I know are aware that words have power. How you use them is important. Using a term that means something specific to many people in the industry and pretending it means something else is a choice. And I'm not going to have a very high opinion of those who engage in that practice.

Don't like the self-pub label? Fine. But don't steal a well known industry term and use it to mask what you're really doing.


It's Fair Time!

If I've been MIA on the blog and Twitter lately, it's because I've been spending all week at our county fair. In the small town universe, the fair is a big deal. Sure, it's old fashioned, but it's also THE place to see everyone. Like a mini reunion. And then there's the bragging rights. We have an "art barn" where everyone enters their paintings, drawings, and photos. There's the Home Arts area that showcases the baked goods, jellies, and quilts. And there's the animal area where local 4H members show off their various animals.

Like this smug guy here.

Our fair is actually a 2 county fair. My county is small (only 20,000 people), but the neighboring county is even smaller. And although we live in the mountains, it's also a big agricultural area with ranches just about everywhere.

And then there's the fair parade which starts with the firing of the anvils. Basically two anvils stuck on top of each other with a little gunpowder or  accelerant in the middle. Then a long pole is heated up in this forge-type thing. Put the super heated pole end on the anvils and BOOM! The sound can be heard over a mile away where the parade starts. (You can tell the veteran parade goers by the fingers in their ears).


Review: Good Girls Don't by Victoria Dahl

Format: Mass market paperback; ebook
Length: 384 pages
Publisher: HQN (Harlequin)
Pub Date: September 1, 2011
FTC: digital review copy courtesy of the publisher
 *Mild spoilers*

Good Girls Don't is the first full length book in Dahl's new Donovan series. In typical Victoria Dahl fashion, it's filled with snappy dialogue, hunky guys, and a heroine that elicits some divisive reactions among readers.

I had some issues with the heroine in this book. I didn't dislike her, but failed to understand the source of her never-ending mistrust and need for keeping secrets. For me, being scared of a rift in the family didn't seem sufficient motivation to go behind her family's back and "fix" something by making a deal that threatened her financial security. And her insistence on covering for her adult brother seemed more than a little bit unhealthy.


Maya Banks Book Video by Tessa Dare

As part of Operation Auction, Tessa Dare offered up a book video (in a similar style to those for her Stud Club trilogy). I laughed myself silly watching this. Congrats to Tessa on a fabulous job and to Maya Banks for an awesome book video. And I say that as someone who doesn't like book videos.


Hump Day Movie: Mr. Frost (1990)

It's hard to believe that this movie is NOT available on DVD. I personally find it one of Goldblum's creepier movies. And it highlights both his appeal and his incredible skills with dialogue. Parts of it are available (potentially infringing) on Youtube. You can find used copies on VHS, if you happen to still have a VCR laying around.

Here's a brief synopsis from wiki:
A police detective named Felix Detweiler visits the palatial French estate of Mister Frost, whose first name is never given, to investigate a report of a dead body. Frost, with very little prompting, cheerfully admits that he has many bodies buried in his yard.Frost is arrested and ultimately placed in an asylum, not having spoken a word for two years. During this time the police are unable to establish his identity. The detective leaves his job and becomes obsessed with Frost and the 24 corpses dug up from his garden. Frost's long silence is broken when he encounters Sarah Day, a doctor at the asylum. Frost refuses to speak with anyone but her, then tells Dr. Day that he is, in fact, Satan. He reveals that he plans to goad her into murdering him.

This came out about a year before Silence of the Lambs, but it is similar in style.  It's a dialogue-driven film, filled with philosophical discussions between doctor and patient. It has a very early 90s/late 80s aesthetic, though, so be warned.

You can watch the trailer here. It's really awful, though, so it's no wonder the public's reception of this movie was tepid.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Bite Before Christmas by Lynsay Sands and Jeaniene Frost

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted over at Breaking the Spine. It highlights books we just can't wait to get our greedy book loving hands on.

The Bite Before Christmas by Jeaniene Frost and Lynsay Sands
Pub Date: October 25, 2011
Publisher: William Morrow
Format: Hardcover, ebook
Length: 352 pages

Sands and Frost write very different paranormal romances, so I'm intrigued to see how well these mesh in this hardcover release.
In Lynsay Sands' "The Gift," Katricia Argeneau knows grey-eyed cop Teddy Brunswick is her life mate. She just needs to convince him they belong together, and being snowbound in a secluded cabin will make this a Christmas neither will forget.

It's "Home for the Holidays" in Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress series. Cat and Bones may long to wrap presents and set up a tree, but this Christmas, an evil vampire and long-buried family secrets will threaten to take a bite out of their holiday cheer.


Dishonesty in Romance

I really need to stop reading books where the hero or heroine keeps secrets. I've just been reading too many of them lately, and my tolerance is so low that even a whiff of it sends my blood pressure up.

I know that books need conflict to work well, but there's something about the 'I have a secret agenda' plot that drives me absolutely up the wall. Especially when the hero or heroine is STILL lying midway or later in the novel. For me, it comes down to trust.

Trust is important in a relationship. Without it, I'm not going to believe that a couple will ever have a lifetime Happily Ever After. Chemistry or attraction is all well and good, but without trust, I don't believe love can last.

I guess that makes me old fashioned in a way. But it's why I can't stand cheating in books, either. I'm not saying the 'secret agenda' plot can never work, but it loses its believability for me when it continues past the very beginning of the novel. Because I consider any hero or heroine who forgives someone who has been lying to them for so long as TSTL. How on earth can they ever trust that person to be honest with them when every aspect of their association is based on lie after lie?

Am I the only one who hates this trope with a passion? Are there more dishonest heroines these days or am I just noticing them? Are there any other plot devices that drive you up the wall or lead you to put a book down as a DNF?


Waiting on Wednesday Real Men Will by Victoria Dahl

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event (although I've been slacking of late) hosted over at Breaking the Spine. It highlights books we just can't wait to get our greedy, book-loving hands on. 

I've read the first two in this series via Netgalley. (Yeah, yeah, I broke my NG boycott for them. What can I say? I'm weak).  The first one (out August 30th) is good, the second one is better. I'm unsure how much I'll like the 3rd one. Why? Because I didn't like the prequel story set up contained in the Guy Next Door anthology. And because the oldest brother is a bit of an uptight jerk.

But it's Victoria Dahl, so I want to read it anyway. Like RIGHT NOW. Anyhoo...

Real Men Will by Victoria Dahl
Publisher: HQN (Harlequin)
Pub Date: October 25, 2011
Format:mass market, ebook
Donovan Brothers Brewery #3

The Blurb:
It was meant to be a one-night stand. One night of passion. Scorching hot. Then Beth Cantrell and Eric Donovan were supposed to go their separate ways. That’s the only reason he lied about his name, telling her he was really his wild younger brother. Hiding his own identity as the conservative Donovan. The “good” one.

But passion has its own logic, and Eric finds he cannot forget the sable-haired beauty with whom he shared one night of passion. When Beth discovers that Eric has lied, however, she knows he cannot be trusted. Her mind tells her to forget the blue-eyed charmer. If only every fiber of her being did not burn to call him back.


Monday Crankiness

I have a case of Monday Crankies. Everything seems to be setting me off. Today, two things involved RT Magazine. Well, sort of.

First, there's the giant advertisement in the magazine by Avon promoting its k.i.s.s. and teal awareness campaign for ovarian cancer (September, page 7). That's a good thing, right? Right. But amongst the many participating new release titles, I spotted something odd. Avon had chosen The Deed by Lynsay Sands as a title to include in the program. My problem with that? It's not a new release. It's a reissue of a Sands backlist title that Avon purchased from Dorchester when they (Dorchester) first started having financial problems.

A little sleuthing around online revealed a bit more. While Amazon marks this book as a reissue in the product details, nothing on the front cover gives any clue that it's not a new book. And Barnes and Noble has no mention whatsoever of its "classic" status.


Review: Turn It Up by Inez Kelley

Format: ebook
Publisher: Carina Press
Pub Date: August 1, 2011
FTC: digital copy provided by the author because she knows I love witty banter

The Blurb:
 Dr. Bastian Talbot and self-proclaimed sex goddess Charlie Pierce heat up the air waves with their flirty banter as radio hosts Dr. Hot and the Honeypot. Off the air, they’re best friends…but Bastian wants to be so much more. He wants Charlie—in bed, and forever.
Problem is, Charlie doesn’t do commitment. Sure, she’s had X-rated fantasies of Bastian, but he was always just a friend—until he impulsively proposes and unleashes the lust they’ve been denying for years. Charlie’s willing to explore where their wild chemistry leads, but she won’t marry him. And he won’t have sex with her until she accepts his proposal, despite her seductive schemes.
What are Dr. Hot and the Honeypot to do? Ask their listeners for advice on how to tame a sex kitten and turn a perfect gentleman into a shameless lover. The Race to Wed or Bed is on…who will turn up on top?

I loved this book. I really did. A steady, responsible hero with a sense of humor, a heroine not afraid to embrace her naughty side, some sexy and outrageous banter, and S'moregasms*. Can't ask for much more than that.


Hump Day Classic Movie: The Black Cauldron (1985)

Before Disney princess marketing took over absolutely everything, Disney sometimes put out darker pictures. But nothing, I think, quite as dark as the Black Cauldron. Even with a Disney spin, this movie earned a PG rating from the MPAA. The first PG rating for Disney's animated division. And audiences were not quite as willing to embrace that darker vision.

Very loosely based on the Chronicles of Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander, the movie bombed at the box office. I personally think it's one of the better movies from the mid-80s that Disney put out. It's not a musical, although there are elements of music throughout. It's a little rough around the edges, but I like the dark tone of the film. The creepiness. For fans of animation, this is a must-see film.

You can see a clip on youtube here: http://youtu.be/OlT3XbfU6e8


Cilantro Jalapeno Deviled Eggs

This is my husband's favorite deviled egg recipe.  The original version was from a cilantro cookbook, although we've tweaked it  a bit.

Cilantro Jalapeño Deviled Eggs
12 eggs, hardboiled, peeled and halved
1/2 cup Cilantro Aioli (recipe follows)
24 small springs of cilantro

Transfer yolks to a bowl and mash with Cilantro Aioli, adding salt to taste. Using a spoon, melon baller, or pastry bag, fill egg white halves with yolk mixture. Garnish with spring of cilantro before serving.

Cilantro Aioli
1 cup mayonnaise
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves (or a good handful unchopped)
1/4 cup lime juice
1 jalapeño

In food processor, combine mayonnaise, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, and jalapeño. Pulse to blend until fairly smooth. Add salt to taste.

Makes a little over 1 cup. You can mix sour cream with leftover aioli to make a terrific sauce for tacos.