Nikola

Archive for April, 2010|Monthly archive page

Wonders Never Cease by Tim Downs

In Your Books on April 28, 2010 at 8:14 PM
 

     

Wonders Never Cease by Tim Downs

 

   

Wonders Never Cease by Tim Downs, takes an insightful (and at times hilarious) look at a unique set of circumstances that bring together an eclectic cast of characters. When aging Hollywood starlet, Olivia Hayden ends up in a medically induced coma, her nurse, would-be playboy Kemp McAvoy, seizes the opportunity to cash in on this famous “cash cow”.  With assistance from Olivia’s parasitic manager and an unsavory book publisher, the trio set out to convince the actress she’s on an “angelic” inspired mission to spread a divine message to the world. Meanwhile, Kemp’s girlfriend’s daughter Leah, claims to really see angels.  As the novel unfolds, we’re left wondering if divine spirits are indeed things of fantasy or if they’re closer than we think.    

Pros   

I really enjoyed reading Wonders Never Cease.  It’s the kind of book you have to force yourself to put down, because it truly is that good!  The story line moves along at a fluid pace, and delivers a well-balanced blend of mystery, drama and wicked humor.  A fun read, that delivers a powerful message in a non-preachy way.   

Cons   

The ending was swift but satisfying.    

4 Out Of 5 Bags

 

   

The Legal Stuff 🙂 

Book Sneeze – I receive books free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I express are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  

   

   

 

Advertisements

What’s For Supper?

In Your Food on April 28, 2010 at 8:54 AM

Having a sandwich can be more than just your typical lunchtime affair.  Pair this hearty open-faced alternative with a juicy fruit salad and you’ve elevated the lowly sandwich to a regal state!  Make this budget friendly delight in 20 minutes or less. 

 Open-Faced Monte Cristo  

Monte Cristo Sandwich

 

 Makes 4 servings 

 Prep Time: 15 minutes, Broil Time: 3 minutes.  

Ingredients  

2 large eggs  

½ cup milk  

½ teaspoon salt  

¼ teaspoon pepper  

4 (1” thick bread) slices  

2 tablespoons butter or margarine  

4 tablespoons strawberry jam or jelly  

4 ounces thinly sliced smoked ham  

4 ounces thinly sliced turkey or chicken  

8 slices Swiss cheese  

Optional  

Powdered sugar  

Strawberries, whole and sliced  

Whisk together first 4 ingredients.  Dip both sides of bread slices into mixture.  

Melt butter in a large skillet; add bread slices, and cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side or till golden brown.  

Spread 1 tablespoon strawberry jam on 1 side of each bread slice; top with turkey, ham and cheese.  Place on baking sheet.  

Broil 5 inches from heat 2 to 3 minutes or until cheese melts.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar, garnish with strawberries.  

Honey Fruit Salad  

 

   

  

Honey

 

Makes 4 servings 

Prep Time 15 minutes  

2 large bananas, sliced 

1/2 cup refrigerated orange juice  

1 ripe mango, peeled, seeded and cut into bite-size pieces  

2 ripe papayas, peeled, seeded and cut into bite size pieces  

1 ½ cups seedless red or white grapes  

1 fresh pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into bite size chunks  

1 tablespoon honey  

Combine mangos, papaya, grapes and pineapple in bowl.  

Top with bananas.  

Whisk orange juice and honey until blended.  Pour over fruit and gently toss.  

 Enjoy! 

Want to know more about the history of sandwiches?  Check out sandwich FAQs at  Food Timeline 

  

From the US to the UK: Tips to Help You Save A Bunch of Dough

In Your Guest Writers, Your World on April 26, 2010 at 9:00 PM

Today’s guest post is written by Rachael Miller of Money Supermarket.Com.  Money Supermarket’s goals are to help you save time and money on a variety of products ranging from household items to vacation deals and more.  They’re an independent company based in the UK that provides objective and balanced comparison on many items you need and love.  

  

With the recession still having a negative impact on many people’s finances, travelling can be seen as a luxury and not a necessity.  However, for some, it’s a way of life, and nothing will stop them from seeing the world, not even big price tags on hotels or flights.  Visiting the UK can be very expensive, which is why we  have put this guide together on ways to save money while visiting.  

Most people who visit the UK will inevitably go to London.  London is the UK’s capital, and is home to some of the best shopping, theatres, landmarks, history and culture in the country, if not Europe.  To really experience this bustling city, you should aim to fit in as much as you can during your stay.  First, make sure you find a hotel that is close to the sites you wish to see, or nearby a London tube station.  You can compare London hotels on sites such as Travel Supermarket where they will do the searching for you, and find the most suitable and cost-effective hotel that meets your needs.  

Buckingham Palace

 

You should also consider what time of year you will be visiting.  If there is going to be a major event close to the place you are staying you may find that hotel prices are twice as expensive.  For example, if you were to visit London during the 2012 Olympics, you would be looking at costly hotel prices.  Should you visit during this time, be sure to book your hotel as far in advance as possible.  Another tip is to visit London during term time. More people look to visit the capital when the kids are off school, so it will be cheaper to visit when the demand for hotels is not at its peak.  

Queen's Guard

 

   

London can be pretty intimidating as it is so vast, and there is literally something on every corner which could tickle your fancy.  To get a taste of the city, take a guided tour on a red Double Decker bus –  true English style!  City Sightseeing Tours is currently offering 26% off touring tickets of London, which allow you to hop on and off the bus at your favourite landmarks for the whole day.  

Hop On Hop Off Double Decker Bus

 

Another thing to consider is where to eat.  London has an extensive, eclectic choice of restaurants and bistros to choose from, whether you’re looking for a quick lunch or a five course fine dining experience.  Before venturing out, search for money saving restaurant vouchers. You can usually find two-for-one and buy one get one free deals, as well as freebies on treats such as wines or deserts. A great tip is to print out a selection of money-off vouchers before you leave for the day, that way you will have them at hand when you need them.  

Cornish Pastry

 

Your trip across the pond doesn’t have to break the bank.  With a little planning and research, you can stay well-within your holiday budget.  Cheers!   

LW is sharing this guest post because we feel Money Supermarket.Com is a company that provides useful information that our readers will find interesting and beneficial.  We are not compensated for publishing this guest post.

Skip’s Gone Green!

In Your Food, Your Home on April 24, 2010 at 5:22 PM
 

Skip the Wonder Beagle

 

If you’re like most moms, you barely have time to feed yourself or your family, let alone time to make homemade treats for your dog.   No worries here though, this super easy and quick, three ingredient recipe is ready in under 30 minutes, and that includes baking time!      

     

  

  Best Buddy Organic Dog Biscuits     

    

Best Buddy Organic Dog Biscuits

 

 Oven Temp:  350 Degrees Preheated     

Ingredients:      

1 cup organic wheat germ     

2 small jars organic baby food (try meat or vegetable flavors)     

1 organic egg     

 Mix wheat germ, baby food and egg togetherroll mixture into Swedish meatball size rounds (larger or smaller depending on the size of your dog).  Place balls on nonstick cookie sheet and slightly flatten with specula.  Bake 25 minutes (+/- 5) then cool on wire rack.  Store your pooch’s biscuits in a decorative  container.       

Yummy for Rover, quick for you!     

Kick it up a notch by using cookie cutters to punch out cute shapes like doggie bones and fire hydrants.    

     

Dogs Laugh Canister

 

Check out these sites for more canine confections:     

  All-Natural Dog Treat    

  The Poop Pantry     

 Organic Pet Digest     

 Good Dog Express     

    

Take a Hike!

In Your World on April 22, 2010 at 11:51 AM

US National Parks

 

   

Utah Arches National Park

 

A quick reminder that entrance into all 392 National Parks is free during National Park Week April 17 – 25.   Go ahead, get out and “Experience Your America”!

Texting Mojo

In Your World on April 18, 2010 at 9:50 PM
    

Image courtesy of Kulo T

 

Could you go an entire week without texting? Or even just one day? For some folks, especially those residing in the under 20 crowd, this would be an impossible feat.  In fairness it seems that everybody’s doing “it”,  at least everybody in the in crowd; and these days, that includes, well …  just about everyone!     

This form of mobile communication is quickly becoming more popular than actually using the phone.  Why you ask? Inquisitive minds want to know?  It’s convenient; pure and simple.  And who among us doesn’t love the simple life?  I certainly do.  If easy street doesn’t have a toll booth, I’m on board.    

In our frequently hectic and over scheduled worlds, texting is an easy way to stay in touch; and if you have busy teens, it’s almost mandatory that you make it part of your daily routine.  It truly is a convenient way to ask, quick questions to my 17- year-old son like, “How’d you do on your history test?”  Or “What time will you be home?”  And it’s super easy for me to wish him a happy day by texting a simple :).  Response time is also a breeze – allowing him to send simple, discreet answers while remaining “all that” in front of his “peeps”.   

Last month, Reid sent exactly 3106 SMS (short message service) texts; I sent 223 and my husband Jim, only 46.  And from what I’ve read and talked about with friends, Reid’s performance is on the low-end  compared to other kids.  In a Washington Post interview, Rob Callender, Trends Director for Teenage Research Unlimited, revealed that, right after using cell phones to check the time, texting is their next most popular use for teens.   

Texting definitely has a place in our society and certainly has made an impact on our world. I always smile when getting an impromptu “ilu” (I love you) text from my son, especially when I’m having a really, crazy day.     

How about you; are you doing it?    

    

  

    

   

   

   

   

   

   

   

   

   

   

 

All For Free!

In budget, coupons, Your Freebies on April 16, 2010 at 10:16 PM

Free Products

 

Just a small sampling of the free products we received this week!  

 Electrasol  

Pull Ups Potty Training Success DVD  

Vitamin Water  

Triple Flex Joint Supplements  

Tena Adult Underwear  

Depends Adult Underwear  

Green Genius Fully Biodegradable Trash Bags  

Pampers Diapers  

Nutrish Dog Food by Rachael Ray  

Beneful Dog Food  

U by Kotex  

Who among us doesn’t love free?  We certainly do!  So we’ve rounded up  five great sites that sport loads of free stuff to share with you! 

   

Walmart – Find free samples, free music, free tools and special discount offers.  

Stock Xchng  – Are you in need of free high quality images for your blog or website?  Or do you have images you want to share?  If so, Stock Xchang is the place to be.  Check out their huge gallery of high quality images; most contributors only ask that you give credit for their work.  

My Pet Savings – Save tons of dough on all your pet care needs by taking advantage of the freebies, coupons and special savings deals found here.   

Contest Girl – You’ll find loads of US and Canadian freebies listed here.  Or get your giveaway fix on, by entering the hundreds of contests listed here.  

The Freebie Blogger – If new and free is your thing, The Freebie Blogger is sure to satisfy your need.  

    

Don’t forget to use your “junk” email address and check out our article: Internet Freebie and Giveaways Stop and Think Before You Click Send .  

   

   

   

 

DECORATING YOUR HOME OFFICE ON A DIME!

In Your Guest Writers, Your Home on April 15, 2010 at 7:20 AM

By: Jennifer Brown Banks

Image Courtesy of Louis Hall

In today’s economy, an increasing number of Americans are working from home.  This change in venue may be the result of losing a 9 to 5 gig, or the desire to test entrepreneurial waters as “job security” becomes a thing of the past.

Whether this space at your place will be used to consult with clients, or merely serve as a haven for a working writer who needs a private nook, there are a few things to consider for ultimate success.

Aside from stylistic preferences, it needs to be affordable, attractive, and functional.

Here are some terrific tips to help you approach this:

Attractive surroundings:

  1. Choose a theme that fits your personality. For instance, my office is conservative and classy, decorated in black leather (and some vinyl) furniture, with beige carpeting and animal throw rug. The colors are well balanced, yet striking. It’s also very warm and inviting. Yours should be too, particularly if you expect to have in-home clients.
  2. Choose colors that inspire you. I love soft muted tones. Others may prefer vibrant colors like red or orange to get their mojo working. Whatever you decide, choose carefully because you’re likely to spend a lot of time there.
  3. Accessorize with live and artificial plants. It adds warmth and a touch of nature.
  4. Keep reading materials like books and magazines on shelves, tables, and baskets. Literature adds a look of professionalism and conveys an image of being smart and well read.

Affordability:

  1. Remember that it’s not where you shop, but how you shop that matters. If you’re clever, “quality conscious” and creative, you’ll find great deals at your local Dollar Store outlets, thrift shops, and even amidst Craigslist offerings.
  2. Ask family members and friends to donate nice pieces that they may no longer have a need for.
  3. Add intimate, inexpensive touches by taking family photos, vacation pictures, and treasured friends, and placing them on display in beautiful frames that you can purchase or make yourself from items at arts and craft stores. Be creative!

Functionality:

  1. Don’t overlook the importance of a well-organized office. It doesn’t have to meet your mom’s standards, but at least be able to see the top of your desk, or locate important documents when in need.
  2. Strive for furniture that is “comfy” yet well constructed.  A desk chair that offers good back support is a must.

Follow these decorating dos and don’ts and you’ll be a diva who has a home office that speaks “royally” of you, and in a language your pockets can appreciate. Work it, girl!

BIO:

Jennifer Brown Banks is a successful writer and entrepreneur who has enjoyed working from her home office for the last seven years.  And she’s lovin’ the view!

After the Hangover by R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr

In Your Books on April 14, 2010 at 8:25 AM

  

 A Decisive Book Review  

“The Premature Obituary of America’s Longest Dying Political Movement” –R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr.  

Conservatives have an irrefutable history of resurrecting from the dead; and appear  to be on the verge of yet another historic comeback with the 2010 mid-term elections looming on the very near horizon.  Emmett Tyrrell Jr., legendary founder and Editor-in-Chief of the American Spectator, gives a riveting and well-researched account of the last 40 plus years of the conservative movement, in his insightful book, After the Hangover.  He orders a rigorously lucid prescription for conservatives to take to recapture America’s Throne.  In perfect prose, Tyrrell recounts the key heroes, heroines and villains of the era and highlights the fractious in-party fighting that is the kryptonite of the conservative movement.   

Pros:  After the Hangover is well-researched and provides a clear and definitive history of the conservative movement. Far from being a dry textbook affair, the book is brought to life through Tyrrell’s often stinging quips on the diverse key players and cultural climate of the period.  

Cons:  After the Hangover is not light reading material as it is well seasoned with many obscure and culturally iconic words.  For example, the word ‘Kulturesmog; a term coined by Tyrrell is used to describe liberal’s and their liberal manipulations of truths to the effect that this manipulation alters and pollutes their minds, preventing them from understanding any evidence that contradicts their points of views.  

4 Out Of 5

 

Live Well For Less gives After the Hangover 4 out of 5 Shopping Bags.    An enjoyable book and informative read.  

Book Sneeze – We receive books free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. We’re not required to write positive reviews. The opinions expressed are our own. We disclose this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Interview with Author Nicole Blades

In You, Your Books on April 13, 2010 at 8:59 AM
 
 

Earth's Waters by Nicole Blades

 

Nicole Blades is a writer, editor and blogger.  Her writing gigs include remarkable stints at ESPN and Essence Magazine.  On her website, she describes herself as “… someone who likes to tell tales.  Not tall ones.  Just  good ones.”      

LW: Welcome Nicole and thanks for taking a moment to sit down and chat.  Give us three “Good to Know” facts about you.      

NB:  I’m enthralled by accents. I like to hear and often try to imitate people’s accents.    

Two things I like to observe in human beings: their hands and their handwriting. Fascinating.    

 I’ve never in my life eaten Taco Bell, and have absolutely no plan to change this.    

LW:  How do you describe Earth’s Waters?    

NB:  Set in Barbados, EARTH’S WATERS is a coming-of-age story about young girl slowly drowning in paradise. Young, sea-loving Harriette Leacock—nicknamed Lily, after the floating flower—lives a lonely life with Mother, a stern, detached woman who is actually her maternal grandmother. Harriette’s only joy is the frequent trips she takes to the sea, where she can escape the prison of boredom and Mother’s contempt, if only for an afternoon. It was at the sun-soaked beach that the withdrawn, thoughtful Harriette finds precious stones, money, company—and Colvin Edwards. Quickly and almost unwittingly, Harriette enters into a relationship with the seemingly charismatic Colvin. But his involvement in a crime that rocks the island forces Harriette to make a decision: stay the shy, retiring flower or finally swim freely into her own destiny.    

LW:  Are the characters’ experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?    

NB:  No, not directly. My family is from Barbados, and I lived and worked there for two years—after my first “tour of duty” in New York City. The characters and their experiences are based on a combination of stories I’ve heard my father tell and my own dreamed-up ideas.    

LW:  What inspired you to write this book?    

NB:  I started working on Earth’s Waters at two different stages, actually. The original seed/idea was planted in my mind one morning when I was riding the ZR (a small van-like bus) to work when I was living in Barbados back in 1997. I was working as a reporter for The Nation, one of the local newspapers, and I would interact with such interesting local characters throughout the day—both in the office and out on assignment. This one morning, looking out the window, I spotted this old woman selling newspapers and nuts near Westbury Cemetery (it might be called something else now). For whatever reason, my mind stayed on her. I started thinking about the people—the regulars—who stop by her cart to get their newspaper or pack of raw nuts before heading off to the rest of their day. I had this specific idea about a story where three different characters’ lives play out in very different ways, yet they are all connected to each other through this newspaper woman. Anyway, I wrote a few thoughts down—half scenes, some dialogue and character descriptions—but didn’t really develop it all the way until a few years later, when I was in California. It was after the dot-com fallout, and I needed to put my creative energy into something solid, so I went back to the story and started writing.    

 LW:  Which part of researching Earth’s Waters was the most personally interesting to you?    

NB:  The people and their stories. My father is a good storyteller. He always had some tale to share about his days as a young boy in Barbados. It was interesting to delve into some of those stories, go deeper into the background of why someone acted the way they did and the history behind so much of it.    

LW:  What is the message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?    

 NB:  I don’t think it’s a message so much as I hope that they enjoy the story enough that they are transported into that time and experience happening on the page.    

LW:  And the cover; who designed it?    

NB:  The publisher, DC Books, handled that. They used a husband-wife design team in Montreal, Canada.    

LW:  How did your interest in writing begin?    

NB:  My love of stories goes way back to when I was a little girl growing up in Montreal, Canada. I often say that ever since my third grade class with Mr. Polka, I’ve been telling stories. Mr. Polka was this fantastic, creative grade school teacher who really encouraged creative writing, and I thoroughly enjoyed letting my imagination roam.    

LW:  What book(s) influence your life— and why?    

NB:  It’s rather difficult to narrow this down. The list is long and varied. I find inspiration in so many places. As for literary, I’d say Alice Munro, Octavia Butler, Edwidge Danticat, Toni Morrison, Jhumpa Lahiri, F. Scott Fitzgerald, to name only a few. Seriously, the list is crazy long! Other inspirations include my son and my husband, my parents, grandmothers, movies, music, photography.    

LW:  What are your three favorite books and why?    

NB:  Oh, I couldn’t answer this question. I don’t know if I can narrow it down to three. There are short stories that I enjoy, essays, plays, and then add to that all the novels… I’m going to skip this one. Sorry!    

LW:  Fair enough. 🙂 What are you reading now?    

NB:  I have a 14-month-old son, so reading (as I would like) is a luxury in which I don’t often partake. Between keeping up with that little sweetheart, writing my second book, working on my blog, and doing freelance media projects, if I have “free” time, I’m sleeping! I’m constantly giving the side-eye to this ugly–and growing uglier–stack of  magazines and books that sit piled *next* to my night stand. It’s next because the pile is too much to rest *on* the table.     

However, when I do grab some time to read, I’m quite fond of short story collections. They are just enough for me to bite off and digest before racing off to do something else. Recently read some stories from this thick F. Scott Fitzgerald shorts collection and some from the “Best American” shorts series. Right now I’m reading Alice Munro’s “Too Much Happiness.” I’m also reading a nonfiction, behavioral science-y book called “59 Seconds” by Richard Wiseman. Other books closer to the top of the stack, and which I hope to get to soon: “Big Machine” by Victor LaValle, “On Mercy” by Toni Morrison. My husband and I both read Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” not too long ago.    

LW:  Favorite films and music?    

NB:  I am possibly the worst person to ask these things. My lists are so long to name, and I’m always remembering another “fave” well after the fact and want to add them to the list.    

Music: I like lots of things: jazz, R&B, pop, rock, reggae, hip-hop (the old stuff, not this crazy new business). My husband is a big music guy. He’s introduced me to lots of great World music and some Bluegrass.    

Films: There are many. I am not at all into horror or frat-boy silly stuff. Maybe telling what I *don’t* like is the way to go with these all-time faves questions. Films I’ve seen recently and liked: “Hurt Locker,” District 9,” “Up in the Air.” Also caught “The Wrestler” and Ryan Gosling film “Half Nelson”    

LW:  What advice do you have for new writers?    

NB:  I’m not one to give lots advice to new writers except to say this: Write! You have to write to be a writer. You have to write to become a better writer. Don’t get bogged down in some of the other business-y aspects of the publishing game–it can be daunting. Do your part in this, and write.    

LW:  Can you share a little of your current work with us?    

NB:  I don’t want to say too much about it, but I can say that it’s (primarily) set in an all-girls, boarding school in Vermont, and the main character has a big secret.  But the arrival of a new student in the final year of school rattles the protagonist’s charmed life, and her carefully constructed world begins to crumble.    

LW:  What’s next?    

NB:  Next is finishing this manuscript. Next is building my blog. Next is being a mom. Next is moving forward, forward, forward ever.    

LW:  What else do you want your readers to know? Consider here your likes and dislikes, your interests and hobbies, your favorite ways to unwind — whatever comes to mind.    

NB:  I’m very interested in photography. It’s another fascinating way to tell a story, capture a moment, convey a feeling or idea.    

LW:  Where can our readers find your book and website(s), twitter, etc?    

NB:  Blog: MsMaryMack.com; Twitter: @NicoleBlades Book: “Earth’s Waters” available at Amazon.com, Banes & Noble.com, etc.    

LW:  Thanks for chatting with us Nicole.  Good luck with your blog, your photography and your “next”!  🙂