Saturday, December 20, 2014

MARY MARY QUITE On Raising Children (And Other Mind-Altering Substances) by Mary Huckstep

Disclosure / Disclaimer: I received this book, free of charge, from the author, for review purposes on this blog. No other compensation, monetary or in kind, has been received or implied for this post. Nor was I told how to post about it

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Rounding out our holiday book series,
I have a book that will take you into the new year with humor!

MARY MARY QUITE On Raising Children cover


Step right in to this beautifully illustrated book with short stories about marriage, household pests, children, holidays, teenage driving, bedtime antics and many other matters of domesticity. Each story has a subtle message and is peppered with wit and plenty of laughter.

Mary and her hubby, old Hunk raised five kids, assorted grandkids, three dogs, two cats, various reptiles, rodents galore, a boatload of fish, and a Mexican tarantula named Mad Max. It was crazy. But their drug of choice has always been laughter. Enjoy the stories taken from their experiences.

Sneak Peek: "Why oh why can't mamas live their kids' lives for them? It would solve so many problems before they even started. And it would save so many kids from making mistakes. Big, hairy, dumb-dumb mistakes. Dear God, life would be so simple if only we had a Mama On Board, magical, instantaneous, high-powered panic App - otherwise known as the MOB App. Think about it . . ."


This was a funny look at parenting- both the normal pitfalls (messy rooms-sometimes you have to pick your battles) to the insane (invasion of ants). You'll find yourself laughing out loud as you read it, and the chapters make for perfect late night reading,  to relieve the stress of your hectic day, when you realize other parents have been there before you and lived to write their stories about the dramas! It would be a funny book to give as a baby shower gift, a hostess gift, or a Christmas present for the new parents, to warn them about what will be coming! 

About the Author: 

A former AP English teacher and freelance writer, Mary Huckstep earned her MFA in Screenwriting from UCLA in 2004, then worked in development for a small production company with projects at Sony, Disney, Lifetime, and Hallmark Hall of Fame. While waiting to sell one of her own scripts, Mary decided to publish humorous anecdotes about family life – aka “domestic humor.” Thus, the MARY,MARY QUITE series was born. “On Raising Children (And Other Mind-Altering Substances)” is the first, in a series of three books. Visit her website at www.marymaryquite.com


One winner will win this review copy of this funny book!

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Guest Post: How to Make a Jingle Bell Christmas Tree by Emily Lyon

Disclosure / Disclaimer: I received this post, free of charge, from Home Depot, for blog posting purposes on this blog. No other compensation, monetary or in kind, has been received or implied for this post. Nor was I told how to post it.

christmas reindeer scary

And now a fun last minute project that you can make in an afternoon,
and is perfect for last minute decorating AND for using up all those fabric scraps you have!

It would also be a fun gift idea for the crafter/quilter! 

And great for some mother-daughter crafting time!

jingle bell christmas tree banner

Decorating for the holidays is something I fully enjoy and look forward to every year. I love the process of creating and styling, and just seeing the holiday decorations each day brings a smile to my face.

When November and December roll around, I think that gift giving and decorating can go hand-in-hand. I personally love receiving holiday decorations as gifts! There are a few close friends and neighbors that I like to give something homemade to. Sometimes it will be jams, jellies and syrups, but other times I like to give something they can use over and over again. When you can create a cute holiday gift by hand, the sentiment is even more meaningful. That's where my Jingle Bell Christmas Tree comes in.

In this article, I'll show you, step-by-step, how to make a jingle bell Christmas tree using stuffed fabric triangles and bells. These unique jingle-bell trees make a great wall hanging or gift. If you happen to have a box window, then these could freely hang there and jingle away.

To get started, you will need the following items:
 1/4 yard of six companionable Christmas prints (five for the triangles and one for the base). Alternatively, you can change it up and use only one color, or two contrasting colors, plus a base color.

 20 small bells, and one larger bell for top 

 Baker's twine or ribbon

 Poly Fiberfill stuffing

 Quilters thread for sturdier assembling

 Ribbon and buttons for embellishing

jingle bell christmas tree supplies

 1. Purchase a variety of Christmas print fabrics - at least five assorted companionable prints, plus a different color for your tree base.

jingle bell christmas tree  cut triangles

2. Square up your fabric edges, and cut off selvage edges using a rotary cutter or scissors. Then proceed to cut out triangles. Cut out 4.5" triangles using either a pre-cut template made from card stock, or section off a 4.5" triangle with masking tape on a plastic drafting triangle. This makes using a rotary cutter easy. You should have six triangles of each piece of fabric for a total of 30 triangles. Once you have assembled your triangles, you'll have 15 completed triangles.

jingle bell christmas tree  base

4. Cut out a tree base. Mine is 8.5" at bottom and 4.5" tall. Then, use the triangle template to ensure you use the same angle as the tree triangles, and to determine the size of the top edge, which should be about 6.5".

jingle bell christmas tree  embellished triangle

5. If using ribbon for embellishing, now is the time to sew your ribbon onto to the right side of the triangle.

jingle bell christmas tree  stitched triangle

6. With right sides together, stitch your triangles together, leaving a 1" opening at the bottom for turning right side out. Use a slight .25" seam allowance.

7. Trim corners and turn triangles right side out.

8. Lightly stuff your triangles with fiberfill.

jingle bell christmas tree closing slip stitch

9. Close the openings with a slip-stitch and attach your embellishing buttons, stitching front to back. Make sure to have your knot on the top side so it will be hidden by the button.

jingle bell christmas tree  attaching triangles

10. Now for assembling the triangles into a tree form: using a double stranded thread, make a knot at the bottom of your thread, then run the needle front to back of the two triangles you're attaching. 

jingle bell christmas tree  attaching bells

The knot will be hidden once you attach the bell. Coming back up to the front, run the thread through the bell's loop, then stitch again to the underside of the corners. Now knot it off on the underside. Continue attaching all the corners of the triangles, until fully assembled. Some of your triangles will have three thicknesses of corners.

jingle bell christmas tree  adding twine

11. Using Baker's Twine and a large eyed needle, make a loop at the very tip of the top triangle. This will form the loop for hanging your tree. Knot the end of the twine, the run your needle from the underside of the top corner to the front side. Then create your loop of about 2-3" and slip on the bell before stitch back to the underside. Run the needle back to the underside of the corner. Now you can knot off and secure your loop by separating the two strands of twine, and tying a square knot.

jingle bell christmas tree  attaching base

12. To attach the base of the tree, use Baker's twine. Make a knot at the end of the twine, and stitch from the underside of the top corner of the base. Leaving about 1" of twine between the base and the bottom of the triangle, stitch through the top side of triangle to the underside and then back down to the underside of the base. Knot the twine at the underside of the base. Repeat on the opposite corner of the top of the base.

13. Another option if you don't want to use Baker's twine is to use ribbon. Just attach a loop of  ribbon to the underside of the top triangle, and stitch a bell to the front of the tip of the top triangle.

14. Stitch one end of a 1" strand of ribbon to the upper corner of the base, then stitch the opposite end of the ribbon to the underside of the bottom edge of the triangle assembly. Repeat on the opposite corner of the top of the base.

hanging jingle bell christmas tree

You're done! Now hang it where it can jingle.

Isn't it too cute!
Now get to crafting!


About the Author:

Emily Lyon is a single mother of four who somehow finds the time to write for both The Home Depot and her own site cleverhousewife.com. Emily provides tutorials and gives advice on a  wide variety of topics from Holiday how-tos to tips on parenting. Visit homedepot.com to find more ornaments to spiff up your Christmas decor.

The Superfood Kitchen from Parragon Books Will Introduce YOU to Superfoods!

Disclosure / Disclaimer: I received this book, free of charge, from Parragon Books, via their Book Buddies Program, , for review purposes on this blog. No other compensation, monetary or in kind, has been received or implied for this post. Nor was I told how to post about it

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And now for a 'healthy eating' book that might surprise you!


Superfoods are nutrient-dense foods that can boost your energy and vitality, power up your health and immune system, enhance your mood and brain power, and help protect you against diseases. If you want a lighter, more energized body, this is the book for you! Discover fascinating facts and recipes to improve your health today!!


This book introduces you to what a super food is and shared 20 of them with you. We know about greens and nuts, but did you know that RED fruit and veggies are super foods? Yup- they are high in antioxidants and Vitamin C! The recipes included cover Breakfast (Strawberry Breakfast Dip!), Lunches and Snacks (
Shrimp Filled Baked Sweet Potatoes),  Main Dishes (Tangy Turkey Metballs with Edame), Desserts and Baking (Warm Walnut and Orange Cake). The recipes are all very easy and have ingredients most people have in their pantries! if you are looking for fresh ways with the holiday leftovers, or at eating healthier in the new year, this is the book for you!

And now how about a healthy recipe that's decadent AND good for you, 
and that is perfect for last minute holiday gift giving ,or to have for energy bursts,
and has a secret ingredient!


Chocolate, Fruit and Nut Bark

1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup coarsely chopped hazelnuts (rich in Vitamin E and/E and protein, plus minerals like magnesium, selenium and zinc- aka a super food!)
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate (60-70% cocoa solids), broken into pieces
1/2 cup crispy rice cereal

1. Line a 9x11 inch bakingpan with parchment paper.
2. Mix cherries and nuts in small bowl.
3. Put chocolate in heatproof bowl, set over a saucepan of gently simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn't touch the water (aka a double boiler), and heat chocolate til melted. Remove from the heat and stir in the rice cereal.
4. Pour the chocolate rice mix into the prepared pan and smooth into a thin layer, using a spatula. Immediately sprinkle the cherry/hazelnut mix , then press it into the chocolate with palm of your hand. 
5. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in fridge for 1 hour, til set.
6. To serve/bag for giving, break into 16, or so, pieces, and serve at room temp.


Friday, December 19, 2014

Book Review: A Ghostly Undertaking by Tonya Kappes

Disclosure / Disclaimer: I received this book, free of charge, from Harper Collins, via Edelweiss, for review purposes on this blog. No other compensation, monetary or in kind, has been received or implied for this post. Nor was I told how to post about it

christmas reindeer scary

Well we DO talk about ghosts during the holiday season,
with all those viewings of Scrooge movies, right?

Here's another one to add to your new reader/tablet!


A funeral, a ghost, a murder . . . it’s all in a day’s work for Emma Lee Raines . . .

Bopped on the head from a falling plastic Santa, local undertaker Emma Lee Raines is told she’s suffering from “funeral trauma.” It’s trauma all right, because the not so dearly departed keep talking to her. Take Ruthie Sue Payne—innkeeper, gossip queen, and arch-nemesis of Emma Lee’s granny—she’s adamant that she didn’t just fall down those stairs. She was pushed.

Ruthie has no idea who wanted her pushing up daisies. All she knows is that she can’t cross over until the matter is laid to eternal rest. In the land of the living, Emma Lee’s high-school crush, Sheriff Jack Henry Ross, isn’t ready to rule out foul play. Granny Raines, the widow of Ruthie’s ex-husband and co-owner of the Sleepy Hollow Inn, is the prime suspect. Now Emma Lee is stuck playing detective or risk being haunted forever.


This was one of those books that you start laughing during the first chapter and realize you will not be able to put it down until you finish it! Emma Lee is a character you feel like you already know- she could be your sister, best friend, kooky relative. You'll find yourself rooting for her to chill and go out with Sheriff Ross and have a happy ending. Tonya captures all the small Southern town quirks, characters and secrets perfectly! You'll be laughing at Emma's antics and her 'mother' issues! I finished this one in under 2 hours, it is such a fast enjoyable read!

Tonya has multiple series under her belt, and I'm really hoping that this one ends up as a new series, as I for one, can't wait to see how things end up with Emma and Sheriff Ross, and how many more mysteries she can get into! Be sure to add this one to your wish list, as it is due out in February and you'll want to make sure you get it asap when it comes out!

About the Author:

TONYA KAPPES has written more than fifteen novels and four novellas, all of which have graced numerous bestseller lists including USA Today. Best known for stories charged with emotion and humor and filled with flawed characters, her novels have garnered reader praise and glowing critical reviews. She lives with her husband, two very spoiled schnauzers, and one ex-stray cat in northern Kentucky. Now that her boys are teenagers, Tonya writes full-time but can be found at all of her guys’ high school games with a pencil and paper in hand. Check out Tonya's website, Tonyakappes.com.

Recipe Weekend / Cookbook Review: A Louisiana Christmas: Heritage Recipes and Hometown Celebrations By Carol Stubbs and Nancy Rust

Disclosure / Disclaimer: I received this book, free of charge, from Pelican Publishing, for review purposes on this blog. No other compensation, monetary or in kind, has been received or implied for this post. Nor was I told how to post about it

christmas reindeer scary

And now for a book that will not only bring you some great Louisiana recipes this holiday season, but shared the holiday culture of Louisiana with you!


The holidays in Louisiana feature a stunning array of festivities and events. Good food, music, and camaraderie abound. This volume takes readers on a statewide tour of les fêtes de Noël and provides recipes and activities for the whole family. From the lighting of the bonfire at Oak Alley Plantation to Natchitoches’s Festival of Lights, experience the living culture that the Pelican State has to offer. After a tour of the local entertainment, gather up friends and family and enjoy some of the delicious appetizers, sweet and savory breads, entrées, and desserts included in this beautifully photographed collection.

Separated into geographical sections, this book takes readers on a tour of traditions and happenings in Cajun Country, Sportsman’s Paradise, the Crossroads, Plantation Country, and Greater New Orleans. Contact information is included, along with a description of each festivity. Featured are photographs of the exquisite Hanley-Gueno Neapolitan Presepio Nativity figures, crafted in the eighteenth century. More than one hundred fifty recipes cover every course for every get-together. Family-friendly crafts and activities will keep adults and children celebrating the season all winter long.


This small book is a bounty of recipes and information about Louisiana, and our holiday traditions! The book starts with a quick look at the different regions in Louisiana and their annual holiday events, which are a result of their cultural heritage. Then the book covers Appetizers, Breads, Soups and Salads, Vegetables and Dressings (aka Stuffing to you Yankees), Meat, Desserts, Special Menus (like Game Day and Revillon), and then Beverages and Condiments/Sauces. Interspersed in the recipe section are little notes about Louisiana and the traditions that influenced the recipes. Then there is a chapter about how to share the joy of Christmas with your family, including making snowflakes, making and using Advent wreaths, and making butter in a jar! That last one is super fun for kids! The index is also handy for finding recipes. 

This is a great book that has SO many recipes that we use all year round! I was quite pleased to see how many recipes were from the Acadian/French traditions, and I was happy to find my grandmother's syrup cake recipe, that she had never written down! The recipes are not over involved, and even beginning cooks will have a great time with this book! I highly recommend it for your own cookbook shelf, AND for giving to everyone on your holiday list! It would also be a great hostess present! 

And now for the syrup cake recipe, which would be perfect for brunch Christmas morning, or for Christmas Eve snacking!

Gateau Sirop- Syrup Cake

syrup cake recipe

While Louisiana cooks use Cane Syrup, my grandmother used to use fresh tapped Maple Syrup, that her uncle sent from new Hampshire. So don't be afraid to use which ever syrup you have on hand- but don't use a light version, as you need the thickness.


About the Authors:

Carol Stubbs, a freelance writer for more than thirty years, earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Louisiana State University and her master’s in education from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. She was an editor of Acadiana LifeStyle for three years and was the longtime editor of a bi-annual bridal guide. A former teacher, Stubbs regularly contributes to local publications and tourism guides.

Nancy Rust taught reading for twenty-five years in Kentucky, Florida, Louisiana, and Arizona. She received her bachelor’s degree in English from Western Kentucky University and her master’s and specialist degrees in education from Louisiana State University. Rust has written several children’s books, is an accomplished poet, and has had fiction published in the Jubilee Anthology.
Stubbs and Rust are members of the Writers’ Guild of Acadiana, Friends of the Library, Friends of the Humanities, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and are active volunteers and teachers through Volunteer Instructors Teaching Adults. They both live near Lafayette, Louisiana, with their families.

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