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Review of OLD SINS, LONG SHADOWS by B.D. Hawkey and Pinterest Rainbow Swirl Cake & Butterfly Themed Birthday Party

old sins long shadows

I usually review paranormal stories of some sort, whether they are YA, NA, or Adult, and on occasion I review a contemporary romance novel, and so I was excited to read OLD SINS, LONG SHADOWS because it strays from the usual books that I read. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the story, but as soon as I read the first page I got a slight thrill as I was taken back to my college days when I took 18th Century Literature and read all of the usual classics of that era, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, etc… I enjoyed this story even more because it had more edge and unexpected turns than the traditional classics. Enjoy the blurb and review and afterward be sure to check out my Pinterest experiment making a rainbow swirl cake πŸ™‚

Blurb:

Nominated for the 2014 RONΓ‰ β€œBest Indie or Small Published book of 2013 Award”. A Cornish Victorian romance set against the backdrop of the magnificent Bosvenna Estate, with eccentric rural characters and the sweeping hills of the dramatic Bodmin Moor. Janey Carhart’s story is a tale of obsession, jealousy and love.

At the age of nine, Janey’s younger sisters die from scarlet fever and her grief stricken mother blames Janey for their deaths. Financial difficulties and a desire to win back her mother’s love, forces Janey to enter service where she quickly rises through the ranks.

Upon her arrival to the elegant Cornish Country Estate, she successfully secures a position of a lady’s maid for the wealthy and powerful Brockenshaw family. An exchange of letters between Lady Brockenshaw and her son ignites Janey’s interest, but Janey’s feelings for this mysterious and charming gentleman soon change her life forever.

Old sins cast long shadows and not only does Janey’s mother’s wrath affect Janey’s life, there are others whose sins risk destroying her, the people she cares about and her capacity to love again. Daniel Kellow, her neighbour, offers his help. Can she trust this man who has, it is rumoured, killed a man? Who is the real Daniel Kellow and can she trust him? Can he trust her?

Review:

This has been my of my favorite books of the year so far! Don’t let the cover fool you. Even though it is beautiful, I don’t think it portrays the emotional depth and romantic roller coaster that is experienced by the main character, Janey. Told from multiple points of view, OLD SINS, LONG SHADOWS is mostly told from the viewpoint of Janey who is hired as a lady’s maid. She struggles to find her way amongst the rest of the staff and soon fights her attraction to two very different men – one who is above her class and the other who is abrupt, mysterious, and aloof.

As the story progresses through rich English language and imagery of the Cornish countryside, made more realistic by an author who is from the country, Janey is confronted with one emotional struggle after another. It was a tale of love, turmoil, and emotional struggle, and without giving the story away, I adored the ending even though I didn’t want the story to end, and highly recommend this story to anyone who enjoys a rich, romantic historical saga. This was a story whose characters stayed with me long after I finished the book.

***** 5 Enthusiastic Stars!!!

Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Sins-Long-Shadows-B-D-Hawkey-ebook/dp/B00ED36IMY/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1403044279&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=old+sins%2C+long+shadows+b.d.+hawkeye

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/old-sins-long-shadows-b-d-hawkey/1116359616?ean=9781482593426

Goodreads:Β  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22053314-old-sins-long-shadows?from_search=true

 

Pinterest Project

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My daughter knew exactly what she wanted for her 6th birthday – a rainbow swirl cake and a butterfly themed birthday party. I prefer homemade cake over store bought, and I am certainly not the most artistic cake decorator out there, but I came up with a cake design that was cute for a 6-year-old’s party and easy enough that anyone with a basic sense of how to bake a cake can do πŸ™‚

The batter itself was easy because I used a simple box cake mix. I’m usually all about making everything from scratch – which is what I did for the frosting – but for this recipe, a box cake mix was just fine. To make a four-layer cake, as seen in the picture, I used two boxes. The rainbow swirl part is easy. As you can see in the pictures below, I measured out equal parts of cake batter into separate bowls then added food coloring to each.

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After that it was a simple matter of dropping various colors into the cake pans.

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I made sure to allow the cakes to cool completely before removing them from the pans, so the cake wouldn’t crack. The next step was to make the delicious, light and creamy frosting. I am usually picky about frosting, that’s one of the reasons I don’t like store bought cake, the frosting is usually too heavy and thick. If you like a light frosting, this one is perfect. (Note this recipe is for 2 round cake layers. If you want 4 layers as I made you’ll have to double the recipe.)

Cool Whip Frosting

  • 1Β  8oz. Cool Whip (thawed)
  • 1 3.5 oz package of instant vanilla pudding (other flavors would be good too)
  • 1 Cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (that’s what the recipe calls for but I used orange extract instead. SO good!)

Combine the pudding with milk and flavoring. Mix until smooth. Gently fold in Cool Whip.

Once the frosting is made it’s a simple matter of laying down each layer of cake and spreading the Cool Whip mixture on top of each layer. Once all of the layers are stacked, spread the remainder of the frosting to completely cover it.

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There was no way I was going to get the frosting perfectly smooth, so instead I used a fork and swirled it through the entire cake to give it texture. After that, it was a simple matter of pressing in the small candies around the cake. I was afraid the candies would be hard, but they were chocolately and soft on the inside (found in the cake department at Walmart). The butterflies on top were lollipops ordered from Oriental trading company. Super easy to stick into the cake. The only mistake I made (and I should have known better), don’t put the candies in until you’re almost ready to serve it. I made the cake the night before and decorated it, and by the next morning, a lot of the coloring from the candies had dripped into the white frosting. It was still cute, but if you want a cake that looks as perfect as possible, I would wait to decorate it.

Going along with the butterfly theme, I also found a few fruit, veggie, and candy ideas on Pinterest and tried to recreate them. The kids all thought it was fun πŸ™‚

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Β My daughter also insisted on a pinata. While I was considering projects for her friends, I came across these cute canvas butterfly bags, also from Oriental Trading Company. I bought fabric markers, and the bags served not only as a project for the girls, but also as candy holders once the pinata was cracked open πŸ™‚

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For more Pinterest ideas check out my Pinterest page. I also have pinned images from my Indigo Trilogy πŸ™‚

Pinterest:Β 

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Review of EVAN ELEMENTAL by Crystal Groszek and Pinterest Father’s Day project

evan elemental

I signed up to participate in the blog tour for Crystal Groszek’s book, EVAN EVOLVED, Book 2 in this trilogy, because the blurb sounded fascinating and I always enjoy a good YA paranormal story. I decided I’d better read the first book, EVAN ELEMENTAL, so I’d be caught up and know what’s going on πŸ™‚ This has been a fun trilogy to read and I’m happy to present the review of Book One: EVAN ELEMENTAL. After the book review, be sure to check out my Pinterest project for the week. Since Father’s Day is just around the corner, I decided to get the kids’ help with this one. In case you’re still looking for a project to do with the kids, it was a fun one πŸ™‚ My pictures and review are posted at the bottom πŸ™‚

Blurb:

Orphaned at seventeen, Evan O’Fion has a choice: let her loss define her or rise above it and become more than she ever believed she was capable of. The problem? Giving in to the darkness that calls her is just too easy. Add in to the mix the ability to control the elements and travel across space and time, and Evan is pretty sure she’s going to lose it completely. Giving in would be a relief, but Evan is beginning to realize that there are people counting on her and that the mystery of her past is the key to it all.

As Evan struggles to put her party-girl ways behind her, she must learn to control her new abilities and face the fact that everything she thought she knew about herself was a lie. On top of it all, she has to face a new town, new home, new school, and a sexy dangerous guy…or two.

Dealing has never been Evan’s strong suit. How she’s going to handle it all and come out alive, she has no idea, but she’s stronger than ever and she’s not going down without a fight.

Review:

I enjoyed the story a lot. It was a quick read and kept me wanting to find out what would happen next. As with any story there are always aspects that I enjoy and things I would change. The story is told from a first person point of view from the main character, Evan. At age seventeen, Evan is orphaned at the beginning of the story and sent to live with a relative she’s never met. Her world is surrounded in mystery from the moment she enters her new life, and she is kept relatively in the dark throughout most of the story. Crystal has a knack for keeping the story progressing smoothly, and I flew through the book because I kept wanting to find out what would happen next. Soon after Evan arrives to her new town, she begins to discover that she is developing supernatural abilities and can manipulate the elements of nature.

As much as I enjoyed the story, I had mixed emotions about the main character Evan and had a hard time relating to her. When I read YA books, I always consider the teenagers I work with and whether I would recommend the same book for them. Keeping in mind that YA books are typically considered to fall in the 13-17 age group, I would definitely say that this story is for the older age range of mature YA readers due to language and Evan’s poor choices of turning to drugs. The story would have been just as entertaining if Evan didn’t use drugs because there wasn’t an explicit “good” reason following the plot development for her to turn to drugs, not that there ever is a good reason anyway. In this case, Evan just seems like a spoiled brat. I can see that teenagers who struggle with drugs and alcohol would be able to relate to the character, but the main plot of the story has nothing to do with overcoming a drug addiction, it was just a character flaw. I would have enjoyed it more if Evan could be seen as a better role model to younger readers. With that said, because I had to get in out there since this is a YA book, it was an enjoyable story.

There is definite character development throughout the story, and I enjoyed reading about Evan as she discovered her new supernatural abilities. I haven’t read a story exactly like this one before with a character who can manipulate the elements of nature. It was very interesting. The only thing I would have liked to have seen more would have been more time spent on Evan exploring her new abilities. There were a few instances in the story that focused on her new talents, but they were all fairly brief. I anticipate that in the stories to come, Evan will continue to discover what she is capable of. I think this first story is just the beginning of more to come πŸ™‚

I also enjoyed the love story entwined within. As Evan is struggling to deal with the loss of her parents, discovering her new abilities, and the obvious secrets those around her are keeping, she is also faced with a surprising love interest, who IS a very likable character. πŸ™‚

There were a few instances in the story when I questioned the first person perspective and choice of verb usage and a few punctuation errors here and there, but nothing that was distracting unless you were looking for it. Overall, this was a great story. *Warning* it does end with a huge cliffhanger, so it’s a good thing the second book, EVAN EVOLVED, is already out. I anxiously started reading it the day after I finished this book πŸ™‚ Look for my review of EVAN EVOLVED on Sunday πŸ™‚

***3 Stars

FREE on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Evan-Elemental-Crystal-Groszek-ebook/dp/B00CNF0BEU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1402437829&sr=8-1&keywords=evan+elemental

Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17887135-evan-elemental?from_search=true

Pinterest Project

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Father’s Day Project “Dad Rocks”

I had a hard time deciding which Father’s Day project to do this year. After perusing Pinterest, I came up with a ton of fun ideas. I pinned all of the great projects I found under “Kids Crafts” if you’re looking for other Father’s Day ideas. The link to my Pinterest page is at the bottom of this post πŸ™‚ I decided on this salt dough project because my kids LOVE rocks and they were all able to participate in the project.

To start with I sent the kids into the backyard in search of rocks. This was the easy part because I live in Arizona, and half of my backyard is made up of rocks πŸ™‚ The project definitely could have been on a smaller scale using smaller rocks – the rocks we used ranged between 1/2 inch – 1.5 inches. The dimensions for the final project are 12″ x 6″.

After we gathered the rocks, the kids had fun sorting out their favorites and figuring out which rocks would work best for each letter. Once we had sorted through the rocks and spelled out “Dad Rocks”, the kids helped me mix up the salt dough mixture. It was difficult to knead the dough, but we still took “turns” and the girls thought they were helping to knead it and that’s what mattered πŸ™‚ The next step was to roll it out. We rolled it on floured wax paper so it would be easy to transfer to a cookie sheet. The rectangle is, of course, not perfect, but it’s a kids’ project and the kids helped, so that’s what matters πŸ™‚

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It’s optional of course, but I decided it would look cute and be more personalized if they made an imprint of their hands first. The rocks cover up half of their handprints, but I like that it gives a personalized touch πŸ™‚ Once they pressed their hands in, I carefully pressed in each rock. I thought each rock was secure, but once it had baked, 2 of the rocks fell out. This is an easy fix with superglue, but I would suggest double checking that the rocks are completely pressed into the dough.

Another thing to be aware of is that if you make a project of this size it’s going to take a REALLY long time to bake, so don’t plan on using the oven for a while.Β  Also, if you plan to hang it up, which I hadn’t planned on at first, make sure you punch the holes before you bake it. After we put it all together, I started to bake it and then started wondering what we were going to do with it once we give it to “Daddy” for Father’s Day. It’s a little too big to just place on a desk. About an hour and a half into the baking process, I realized that it would look cute hung up, so I pulled it out of the oven, and thankfully the dough was still soft enough that I could punch holes πŸ™‚ A small smaller project, of course, would make a cute paper weight.

When all was said and done, it took approximately 12-14 hours to bake. It’s a big process, but the kids loved it, and I’m happy that it turned out cute. The kids are very excited to give it to their daddy for Father’s Day πŸ™‚ I found several salt dough recipes online and they all seemed to vary slightly. I’m sure they all work, some call for more salt, some call for higher baking temperatures. I just picked a recipe that had a good blog and description, but there are lots more out there. If you don’t have your own salt dough recipe, this is the one I used. Here’s the full link to the blog if you want to read more on the recipe:

http://www.craftychild.com/salt-dough-recipe.html

Salt Dough for crafts

– 3 Cups flour

– 1/2 cup table salt

– 1 1/4 cut water

Directions:

Mix flour and salt in a bowl. To make colored dough, add a couple teaspoons of food coloring to the water before you add it to the flour mix. Slowly stir in the water then knead the dough on a floured surface. If the dough is too crumbly, slowly add a little water at a time until it is smooth and elastic – 5 to 10 minutes.

Bake at 170 degrees on a baking paper lined tray. It will take a while so just keep an eye on it. The bigger the project, the longer it’s going to take. The project is finished when it’s hard and you can’t make an indentation in it. Also be sure to check the bottom. At first I thought our project was finished, but the bottom was still soft. I peeled the paper off and put it on a lower rack to finish baking.

For more Father’s Day ideas check out my Pinterest Page πŸ™‚

Review of HELL TRANSPORTER by Cyndi Tefft and a Pinterest experiment with Peanut Butter Energy Balls

I am thrilled to share my first review of the summer with Cyndi Tefft’s HELL TRANSPORTER, Book 2 in the Between Series. Each week throughout the summer, I will share a book review along with a Pinterest experiment. I love to cook and do craft projects, but I’ve been short on time throughout the school year. Now that the kids are out of school, I’m going to take advantage of my time with them to work on projects and recipes I’ve wanted to try throughout the year. Each week I will share a project or recipe with you and give you my review of how it turned out and, if appropriate, how kid friendly it is πŸ™‚

hell transporter

Blurb:

Aiden MacRae has been given a new life after being stuck transporting souls to heaven for the last three hundred years. He doesn’t know the culture, the times or the slang, but there is one thing he does know: he didn’t come forward alone.

The master of hell has other plans for the Scottish Highlander and has sent a transporter of his own to get the deed done. Will Lindsey be able to save him or get caught in the crossfire?

Review:

Last year I presented my review of BETWEEN, Book 1 in the NA Between Series. The premise is based on Lindsey, a college student who dies in a car crash and falls in love with the transporter who is supposed to take her to heaven. I loved the book and was excited to continue reading the story with Book 2, HELL TRANSPORTER.

In Book 2, Lindsey finds herself head over heels in love and wondering if her new life is too good to be true. Her sense of peace soon comes crashing down when she discovers that someone else from “the other side” is after her. I love these books because it is a quick, easy read, but at the same time, Cyndi manages to create a sense of realism through rich, descriptive language. She creates enough visualization to offer the sights, smells, and feelings that the characters experience, but not too much to bog the reader down. HELL TRANSPORTER has a nice balance of character development, romance, and suspense.

Without giving anything away, I will say that HELL TRANSPORTER lives up to my expectations, and is perhaps even more exciting than the first book. I was satisfied with the ending because it didn’t leave off with a complete cliffhanger, but left me wanting enough to read the next book, EVEN IN DARKNESS.

I would recommend the series for older teenagers, as there are mild love scenes, or any adult who enjoys an excellent paranormal NA story πŸ™‚ 5 STARS *****

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Hell-Transporter-Between-Cyndi-Tefft-ebook/dp/B007KUXJ4M/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1401742380&sr=8-1&keywords=hell+transporter

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12934676-hell-transporter?from_search=true

Pinterest Project

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Peanut Butter Energy Balls

Recipe:

I found several variations of this recipe online. There are slight variations but this one was the most similar to other recipes I found.

  • 1 cup dry old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 2/3 cup toasted coconut flakes (I used raisins instead)
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (I used all natural, no sugar)
  • 1/2 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 Tbsp. chia seeds (optional)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

Stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl until thoroughly mixed. Cover and let chill in the refrigerator for half an hour.

Once chilled, roll into balls of whatever size you would like. (Mine were about 1″ in diameter.) Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to 1 week.

Makes about 20-25 balls.

I’ve been wanting to find healthier snack alternatives for the kids and myself (and the husband, ha ha) and saw the recipe for these Peanut Butter Protein Energy Balls awhile ago, and I’ve been wanting to try them. They are excellent on so many levels and I highly recommend them.

First off, they are very easy to make and it’s a fun, easy project that the kids can help out with. Full of high nutritional foods (except for the chocolate chips), the peanut butter balls give me enough energy to keep me going for hours. I can eat two in the morning and feel satisfied until lunch in comparison to eating a bowl of cereal where I am usually hungry an hour or two later. You’ll see in the recipe that flaxseeds and chia seeds are included. These are of course optional, as most of the ingredients are. You can mix and choose what you add. I was hesitant to add the seeds because I didn’t know much about them. I remembered hearing Dr. Oz talk about them on his show at one point, so I knew they had to have some sort of beneficial health value, but I couldn’t remember what it was, so I googled them. Here’s what I found:

Flaxseeds: (Taken from WebMD.com)

Although flaxseed contains all sorts of healthy components, it owes its primary healthy reputation to three of them:

  • Omega-3 essential fatty acids, “good” fats that have been shown to have heart-healthy effects. Each tablespoon of ground flaxseed contains about 1.8 grams of plant omega-3s.
  • Lignans, which have both plant estrogen and antioxidant qualities. Flaxseed contains 75 to 800 times more lignans than other plant foods.
  • Fiber. Flaxseed contains both the soluble and insoluble types.

Chia Seeds: (Taken from WebMD.com)

Chia is an edible seed that comes from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, grown in Mexico dating back to Mayan and Aztec cultures. “Chia” means strength, and folklore has it that these cultures used the tiny black and white seeds as an energy booster. That makes sense, as chia seeds are a concentrated food containing healthy omega-3 fatty acids, carbohydrates, protein, fiber, antioxidants, and calcium.

Chia seeds are an unprocessed, whole-grain food that can be absorbed by the body as seeds (unlike flaxseeds). One ounce (about 2 tablespoons) contains 139 calories, 4 grams of protein, 9 grams fat, 12 grams carbohydrates and 11 grams of fiber, plus vitamins and minerals.

The health benefits to include the seeds definitely sounded worth it and the recipe doesn’t call for a lot. I spent about $3 at a local health food store for enough seeds to make the recipe twice. The downside to the seeds is that they do get stuck in the teeth, especially the chia seeds if you have braces or any sort of permanent retainer. The little black seeds, unlike poppyseeds, swell when they get wet and become gooey. So you have to weigh that option when you consider adding them.

The Peanut Butter Energy Balls get a definite 5 stars and are highly recommended for the whole family.

Look for future books and projects that I will be reviewing this summer on my Pinterest page. I will continue to add books and projects as the summer progresses so check back πŸ™‚

What’s your summer favorite? Pinterest and giveaway fun!

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I am super excited to announce a fun summertime giveaway and prize!

Who would like a personalized signed paperback from one of the attending authors at UTOP YA (an awesome Young Adult book convention in Nashville)? I am counting down the days until I get to go, and besides signing my own books for readers, I plan to play the part of a fan and get a few books for myself as well πŸ™‚ If you are the lucky winner of this giveaway, I will get you a signed paperback of your choosing from any of the authors in attendance. The UTOP YA link is located at the bottom of this post so you can see the list of authors who will be there πŸ™‚

Now the fun giveaway part πŸ™‚ Starting next week, I plan to kick off a summer weekly Pinterest and Book review post. Along with a book review, I will also post pictures and reviews of Pinterest projects that I have been wanting to try. Now that the kids are out of school for the summer, I’m looking for healthy summer recipes, art projects, etc… Each week I will review a book I’ve been wanting to read and I will share my Pinterest experiments with everyone πŸ™‚

I have a few Pinterest ideas that I plan to try but I’m looking for more and I would love to hear your ideas. To enter the giveaway, follow the Facebook link and post your favorite Pinterest link in the comments section of the top pinned post or send me your own picture of an idea that fits into one of the following categories. Every shared idea will count as an entry. Limit 3 entries per person πŸ™‚ I can’t possibly pick just one favorite so I will hold a random drawing on Saturday, May 31st at 9:00am PST. Please check back on my Facebook page to see if you have won πŸ™‚

– Fun kid food project (ex: along the lines of ants on a log)

– Healthy summertime recipe (favorite healthy salad, bread, snack, whatever)

– Kids craft project

– Favorite household organization tip

– Favorite household decorating idea

Follow the Facebook link to enter: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorJacindaBuchmann

UTOP YA:http://utopyacon.com/exhibitors-2014/