Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Coconut Pancake Syrup

If you've ever been to the islands and treated yourself to breakfast at one of the mom & pop diners, chances are that you've had the most wonderful Coconut Syrup you've ever tasted. So amazing in fact that you spent the rest of your trip searching gift shops for it and passing out from the price tag. Then, if you're like me, you tried the interwebs hoping to score a deal, only to find that the prices there are pretty steep as well.  Well, after some trial and error, I finally found my answer. An easy DIY recipe that will have even the most particular of coconut critics craving more.

Note: This is not healthy by any stretch of the imagination. It will delight your taste buds and stick around on your thighs for many happy moons. :)

Heavenly Coconut Pancake Syrup 

1 can of coconut milk (13.5 oz)
2 Tbs corn starch
2 cups light corn syrup
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut (optional)

Stir coconut milk and cornstarch together in a medium saucepan until corn starch is dissolved.
Add remaining ingredients. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring continually. As soon as the mixture comes to a rolling boil, remove from heat. Serve warm or cold.

* Don't limit the use of this wonderful syrup to pancakes. Try it on waffles, french toast, and even breakfast bowls (hashbrowns, sausage, and eggs layered together w/ grilled pineapple on top! Sooo good!)

Monday, November 21, 2016

Love and Fat-Free Cheese by Crissy Sharp

One of the benefits of post-surgical down-time, is the chance to sit and read. As much as I love a good book, life is typically so busy, the opportunity to curl up and digest a whole story in a day rarely happens for me... I am so glad I got to do just that with this debut novel from Crissy Sharp.

My Review:

I loved this book. From start to finish, Sharp created dynamic characters and an intriguing plot. Once I got into it, the story pulled me right along. There is a perfect balance of suspense and romance. How can you go wrong with cute, intelligent, kind leading men & a wiity, driven leading gal? This is a clean, cozy, and fun read.  

About the book:

Fat-free cheese is okay--unless you've tasted real cheese. The same holds true with love, as Juliet discovers when she meets Owen Denny, the strikingly handsome CEO of The Bradley Corporation where Juliet now works. As Juliet is forced to decide whether or not to follow her heart, she's dragged into the mystery of the disappearance of her sister's fiancé and the pharmaceutical conspiracy he plans to reveal. Can she protect her loved ones without sacrificing her own heart?

Get a copy:

Available in Kindle & Paperback

About the author:

Crissy Sharp is an author, runner, and sports lover. She has a special knack for avoiding cooking and cleaning so she can focus on her true love: writing. She is in awe of people who can do a one-legged king pigeon without pulling something and detests everything about fat-free cheese. Though she’ll always be a Montana girl at heart, she also loves Tennessee, where she currently lives with her husband and three children.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Stupid Pinky

How do I spell kryptonite? P.I.N.K.Y.

I've debated for some time whether to write about this or not, because, it's just a pinky. A seemingly insignificant, fifth digit. And, let's face it, nobody - except perhaps me - cares about that little guy who used to reside so quietly on the far side of my hand.  - Oh dear, that sounds almost like he no longer resides there. No worries. He's still there. I cannot see him beneath the cast and bandages, but believe me, I feel him... and he's not quiet. In fact, he's quite ANGRY!

(WARNING: this post contains some medical images/wounds that might be disturbing to some...or, if you're like me, you might find them quite fascinating.)

The Event
It all started on October 24, a quiet Monday night in the suburbs I call home. Quiet is a relative term. I'm sure the stereo was on. And, kids, I've got a few of them. Teenagers and young adults, but kids just the same. It was getting late and most of my young peeps had settled into their rooms to do homework. The kitchen table was buried in paperwork and I was busily plunking away on my laptop, pushing a deadline, when the doorbell rang.

Typical protocol when someone comes to the door is to remind the dog where her spot is and instruct her that she is supposed to "stay" there until otherwise commanded. She is big and most visitors find her intimidating. After a quick sweep of the room, I determined that she'd gone to bed (she keeps a rigid bedtime schedule for herself) so I didn't think it was necessary to remind her of door-etiquette.

I unlatched the deadbolt and opened the door, failing to process that this very chain of sounds would register the dog's attention. Before I knew it, she was bolting out of the bedroom and loudly toward the entryway. I reached for her collar - a chain-linked choker fit for the princess she is. Somehow the first three digits on my hand missed, leaving the tip of one, tender, little pinky to catch hold. As one might expect, that lone fingertip stood no chance against the 110+ pounds of forward motion.

I felt a pop and instantly knew something was wrong, but being the tough (insert: stubborn, obstinate, bull-headed) girl that I am, I squared the dog away and finished my business at the door before pausing to look at the source of pain. It felt weird and looked strange. There was a small white bump on the inner crease of the joint and a rapidly bruising dimpled area directly above that. Knowing she'd still be up, I called my daughter Olivia down from her room with the plea that I needed her help looking at an injury. My other daughter, Talia, heard the call and excitedly followed. She was hoping for blood. She was disappointed.

I'd seen breaks and jams and dislocations before. This looked like none of those. We googled for a bit then I consulted a friend with medical training and decided I could probably wait til morning to get it looked at. This was good news. I had a deadline to meet and most certainly didn't want to spend any precious time in the ER. I made a makeshift splint and went back to my laptop.

The First Diagnosis
I got up the next morning and drove to the InstaCare with the hope that they'd take an x-ray, tell me it was just bruised, give me a lollipop, and send me home. We even laughed about it. "Haha, my silly pinky hurts."

Talia waited in the exam room while they took me back for x-rays. "If the doctor comes in," I joked when I returned to the room, "and says "Ooh!" then we know I'm in trouble." We both laughed.

And then it happened. He came in, logged onto the computer, and uploaded the x-ray. "Ooh," he pinched his lips and tilted his head to the side. "Ooh. Ooh. Oooh!" Talia sprang from her chair to get a look at what we were seeing. A fragment of my bone had broken off and was lodged sideways on the front crease of my knuckle. Suddenly the hard, white bump made sense. It was my bone!

A Detached Jersey Finger  is what the doctor called it. Football players get it from grabbing on to their opponent's  jerseys. A typical Jersey Finger injury happens when the finger tendons are actively flexing (making a fist) and something yanks them the opposite direction, causing the tendon to rip. Except, in my case the tendon was too strong. (Yay! Go me!) Instead of tearing away from the bone, it tore a fragment of the bone clean off! So, technically, I've got a sports injury. (Where's my trophy? lol) And surgery is the only way to fix it.

"Take 2 - or 8 - ibuprofen every 4 hours," the doctor directed as I walked out the door.

November 2. Nine days after the injury...

I arrived at the hospital excited to start my road to recovery and confident that I had chosen the best doctor for the job. They'd needed to wait 7-10 days for the swelling to go down. It had been 9 days of discomfort and pain - and having to be uber careful not to do anything that would push the bone out through the skin. I was antsy to start feeling better. My nerves were fairly at ease, I'd had hand surgery before. And by this same surgeon. No worries. This was going to be cake.... or so I thought.

The anesthesiologist put me out for about three minutes - just long enough to deaden my arm - then woke me up and kept me mildly sedated. From my perspective behind the blue surgical curtain, all was going well. There was music, subtle talking between the surgeon and his assistant, and a few drilling sounds. I felt those - not in my finger, but in my elbow!

And then I heard the words, "Well, that was unexpected." In case you're wondering, those aren't very comforting words to hear while laying on the surgical table. Suddenly the 50 minute surgery felt like it'd been going on all day! The blue surgical curtain started to feel oppressive. My mouth was dry. My muscles tightening. My anxiety was building by the minute.

Then we were done. They bandaged me up, removed the claustrophobic curtain, and all was right again. The surgeon explained that there had been some unexpected obstacles to the surgery - mainly, you know, that the whole top portion of my finger was actually broken off right above the knuckle. No big deal, right? Just a complete change of plans. They could no longer do screws (can't screw a broken bone into another broken bone). I ended up with a couple pins to hold the big (unexpected) break and then a suture through my tendon, up through my bone, out through my finger nail, and finally, threaded through a button to hold it all together. Delightful...delightfully painful, that is!

The 50 minute surgery had actually taken 90 min.

Post OP - Week 1 
November 10

Hell. That's pretty much where I spent the first couple of days after surgery. I've delivered four babies, had my share of surgeries, and even suffered some pretty painful injuries (like the time the top half of my ear had to be reattached to my head), but this stupid pinky was going to be the death of me. The pain meds barely touched the pain, but they did a superb job making me sick. I couldn't walk. I couldn't read. I couldn't even watch TV. All I wanted was to curl up in fetal position and cry... and I couldn't even do that! Everything from my elbow to my fingertips was a swollen, painful, mess!

I bargained with the surgeon before going under the knife. You know, cause that's what all good patients do. Typically the post op bandaging would include the entire hand. But I needed some fingers... and this was just a stupid pinky, so couldn't he give me something to work with? We struck a deal. He agreed to give me 3 fingers (2 plus my thumb) and I agreed to take it easy.

And I'm sure he chuckled all the way home that night. There's no way I could use those fingers if I wanted to. First, they're swollen. Second, pretty much all the nerves in your hand are interconnected. So, essentially, moving my index finger causes pain in my pinky. Having them free is essentially pointless. The jokes on me....

At my one week post-op, the doctor asked me how the pain was. "Worse than anticipated," I said. "How come you didn't tell me it was going to be this bad?"

"I kind of did," he grinned. "I explained that you were going to have to take it easy for about 12 weeks."

I glared at him. "Take it easy" and "turn into a thumb-sucking, whiny, convalescent" are two entirely different things.

"I'm sorry," he said. "You DESTROYED the entire tip of your finger. There are a lot of nerves there. Damage like this doesn't heal overnight. And, unfortunately, it's painful."

Thoughts of amputation started to sound appealing.

The good news is, everything looks to be healing correctly. The doctor removed my post-surgery splint and bandages, and for the first time I got to see the button. It looks like a normal, everyday shirt button. He pulled out the stitches then I headed to physical therapy... and now I don't know what's worse: the pain or the stupid, ugly, uncomfortable split. Stupid pinky!

Post-Op week 2
November 17

It's been 2 weeks since operation pinky-reconstruction. Not gonna lie, it's been miserable. Imagine feeling like your hand is in a vice and no matter what you do, you can't seem to release the pressure. If you've ever slammed your finger in a door (or with a hammer) -  take that pain and multiply it by every minute of everyday for 3 weeks and you'll start to get the idea. Then add the button. This may be the worst part! It feels like someone is trying to press a thumbtack through my fingernail. Yah, not so pleasant. Every night I go to bed hoping that the morrow will be better. And every day I set a timer to know when I can take my next ibuprofen/acetaminophen cocktail. I've pretty much ditched the pain pills except when it reaches a point where I can't handle it anymore.

But something wonderful happened yesterday. For the first time in 23 days I felt pretty much nothing in my pinky. Now this lack of pain wasn't constant, but it happened frequently enough that I took notice. A couple of times I even reached down to touch it, thinking perhaps it'd gone to sleep. (It hadn't and I definitely felt it then!) But the point is, I think I've reached a turning point with this whole stupid pinky ordeal. Oh how I hope this is the case.

And, if its not? Sigh...
This stupid pinky could be the death of me.

Monday, November 14, 2016

To Suit a Suitor - by Paula Kremser

About the Book

Much to her mother’s annoyance, Julia North can’t catch a husband. After what seems like the hundredth lost suitor, Julia leaves London to visit a distant cousin, hoping to forget about husband hunting for a time. She inadvertently finds herself in the society of Henry Chamberlain, the most desirable gentleman in Somersetshire. With every young lady in town competing for his attention, Julia assumes she doesn’t have a chance. What she doesn’t know is that her desire to avoid Henry’s attention may be the very thing that catches it . . .

My Review

I don't often read regency, so this was a change of pace for me. I like strong, witty characters, and that's exactly what you get with Julia. She is charming and proper yet quirky and a definite spit-fire. Imagine the fun when she meets the equally clever - and remarkably handsome - Henry Chamberlain. Ms. Kremser has created a delightful tale of love lost and found. For a light-hearted regency read, give it a spin. Witty, charming, and just good clean romantic fun.  

As fun as it was, I do feel that there was room for more thorough content editing. There was a lot of "telling" instead of "showing" which tends to make the story drag. There were also a few incidents where the same idea/concept/feeling was repeated multiple times within a chapter. Again, not a deal breaker, but it had a way of slowing down the pace. 

About the Author

Paula Kremser focused on a career in science for a few years after graduating from Brigham Young University. Several years later when she moved with her young family to England, Paula seized the opportunity to focus on her love of the Regency Era. The enchantment of the aristocracy and the fascinating stories from every stately home she visits have been both research and inspiration for her first novel, Sophia. Paula lives with her husband and four children in a charming village nestled in the Chiltern hills in Buckinghamshire.

Buy it now on Amazon 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Garden Cottage (aka: shed, aka: the project that stretched my limits!)

Hallelujah! - That's what the real name of this project should be. Instead of the "Garden Cottage," I think I should rename this baby "The Hallelujah Cottage." - Why? Because after 5 months of construction (lets be honest this should've taken 1/4 of that!), halle-freakin-lujah, we are DONE!

It started with a pile of lumber on Mother's Day. Yes, my hubby and kids are that awesome! They knew that this project had been scratching to come to life for a loooong time. A standard shed would've been easier, I'm sure, but I wanted something more than a cedar paneled box in my yard. I have to look at this thing every single day... so it had to be cute. So, yes, it has a porch... and shutters, and even a stone elevation. And we won't mention the turquoise potting bench or antique farming equipment that adorn the inside. Because, yes, a shed can be cute and functional and AWESOME!  

And, after a full season of construction, countless trips to the hardware/lumber store, almost 1500 framing nails, hundreds of hours, and a few breakdowns, it finally reached completion just before Halloween. 

Now to be fair, I kind of just picked at this project in between all of our summer adventures. And to be more fair, this was definitely not an "I" project but a "we" one. To say that I learned my limits is an understatement. But the growth and development within myself was almost as needed as the shed itself. 

Ryan and the kids were troopers. I'm sure I'm the only one who bounced out of bed early each Saturday morning with the words, "Yay, we get to work on the shed today!" racing through my mind. But they did it and they did it well. And I am soooo happy with the end product.

So here it is, the stamp of completion on the biggest, most complex construction project I've ever tackled without the help of contractors. And its GOOD! I love it!!! Hallelujah! what????

Monday, November 7, 2016

Bonded at Birth - An Adoptee's Search for Her Roots by Gloria Oren

Did you know that November is National Adoption Month? To help commemerate all the wonderful families of adoption (on both sides of the equation) I've been invited to participate in the book tour for Gloria Oren's newly released memoir: Bonded at Birth: An Adoptee's Search for Her Roots. 

About the Book

(I took the following from Amazon:) 

Gloria Oren’s adoption memoir Bonded at Birth: An Adoptee’s Search for Her Roots is a story of loss, survival, determination, and persistence. It covers one state, three countries, and two continents. It covers sixteen years of searching and a little over four decades since her first adoption. After growing up under the umbrella of secrecy, Gloria sets out to find her birth mother with all she knew about her: she was a Jewish teenager. Despite being told by anyone and everyone that it would be an impossible feat, her determination and motivation increased. Learning her birth father’s name upon reunion with her birth mother and a short time later that he passed away eight years before led to her getting involved in genealogy and through this research medium she discovered that her first cousin seven times removed was Col. William Prescott of the Battle of Bunker Hill fame and more. Seven years later her story is brought full circle.

Bonded at Birth will interest adult adoptees who wish to search but hesitate, adoptive parents confronted by their adopted child’s wish to search, and by birth parents who fear searching not wanting to intrude on their biological offspring’s life. It will attract memoir readers who enjoy a unique story. And couples contemplating adoption will learn the damage secrecy can lead to, and with hope, this book will ensure that they will be the ones to talk to their adopted children about their adoptions.

You can get a copy of Bonded at Birth in print or eBook through Amazon.

About the Author

Gloria Oren was born in Brooklyn, New York. She hopes to inspire others considering a search to take the plunge and see what they discover. She has three grown children and lives in Redmond, Washington with her husband and their firstborn. She has a powerful perspective of finding positivity in experiences on life's roller coaster lurches that leave many in panic.

Oren is an editor for Muse It Up Publishing and also does freelance editing. When editing Gloria helps authors create the best book they can. She is the founder of the Facebook group Women Writers Editors Agents and Publishers which continues growing day by day and a member of the Redmond Association of Spokenword (RASP) and Society of Good Grammar (SPOGG).
Oren has also written two eBooks: Selling Yourself and Your Product: A Guide for Writers and Let Chocolate Be Your Friend: What Your Mother Didn't Tell You as a Child.

You can connect with Gloria:

My Review

If you're looking for a well-written memoir, then this book is a good read. Oren provides a pleasant retelling of her experiences - covering the major incidents of her life from birth through adulthood. I enjoyed reading of her experiences as a Jewish child in Brooklyn and abroad. As a genealogy/family history nut, I enjoyed learning of the joy she continues to find through researching her roots. 

Based on the description of this book, I went into it expecting a much fuller account of Oren's adoption and the journey of finding her birth family. I wanted to learn the details - the "story" as I like to call it - of her process. I wanted to feel her pain and re-live her journey of longing and searching and waiting for answers. What I found was more of a basic memoir with a side-note about adoption. (She didn't really recount much about the "search" until about 80% through the book.) I'm not saying this is a bad thing, just not what I expected. If I was an adoptee searching for my birth family, I think I would find great comfort in hearing how well she's integrated back into her birth family's life. However, if I was looking for tips or support or motivation as to where and how to look, I think I'd probably walk away wanting. 

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