featuring guest authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

#BEAUTY WITH NICOLE--HONEY AND BAKING SODA FACIAL

DIY Facial

We all know that baking soda has a multitude of uses other than for baking. However, did you know it can also be used to make a facial mask that will give your skin a radiant glow? The baking soda not only gently exfoliates your skin, but it also absorbs oil. Adding honey will moisturize and protect your skin.


Mix a tablespoon of baking soda with a teaspoon of honey. Add a few drops of water to create a paste. Apply the paste to your skin and leave on for five minutes. Rinse.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

HEALTHY LIVING WITH JANICE--GUEST AUTHOR MARIANNE RICE ON TYPE 1 DIABETES


Marianne Rice writes contemporary romances set in small New England towns. When she’s not writing, Marianne spends her time buying shoes, eating chocolate, chauffeuring her herd of children to their varying sporting events, and when there’s time, relaxing with fancy drinks and romance books. Learn more about Marianne and her books at her website.

My Plate is Full—Living with a Diabetic

I love to exercise. Okay, I may be stretching the truth a tad. I love how I feel after I exercise. I’ve done the Tough Mudder. Twice. I’ve run the Rugged Maniac and a handful of other obstacle races over the past few years. My husband and I are faithful to the p90x routines and encourage our three children to play in sports throughout the year. Granted, it makes for a crazy, hectic, life, but we’re a healthy family.

I’m a girl who loves, loves, loves to cook and always adds my own little healthy flair to a recipe (the kids have finally discovered that the homemade mac and cheese is actually butternut squash and chicken stock…barely any cheese or milk in the gooey deliciousness). I have an insane sweet tooth but use applesauce, coconut oil, whole wheat flour, flax seed and other ingredients to compensate my weakness.

So on July 28, 2008 when my then seven-year-old was rushed to the emergency room after her routine physical and diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, I was like…what?

“Her blood sugar is over 700,” the nurse said.

“Oh, is that bad?” I asked. I knew nothing about the disease, but from that day on our family’s life had changed. No, we didn’t need to alter our eating habits—Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are COMPLETELY different. One way to piss off a mother of a T1D is to ask if her child is allowed to have a cookie. Ugh. Our life became a whirlwind of carb counting, middle of the night blood sugar testing, constant emails and phone calls with school, pharmacy trips, reorganizing the fridge to make room for the vials of insulin. The two younger siblings learned about carb counting and quickly grew accustomed to needles and shots.

It’s been seven years of ups and downs—literally and figuratively. My daughter still doesn’t like the world to know about her disease as she feels it weakens her. I want her to know it actually makes her stronger. Her close group of friends who know about her diabetes are in awe that she can prick her own finger and change her pump without a nurse (or medical team) to help her. It was only two months into her diagnosis that she started doing her own shots and wouldn’t let me help. Her fingertips are dotted, scarred and calloused and she’s only fourteen. She must always wear her pump the size of a flip-phone on her belly or arm or she’ll die. We must count every carb—apple or cupcake. It makes no difference. Insulin needs to be delivered. We’re constantly nagging her, reminding her, reprimanding her for not testing her blood sugar as often, or giving herself the insulin when needed.

Type 1 Diabetes is a lifestyle changer. And it can happen to anyone. But I am grateful that it’s just diabetes. Seven years ago when I paced the halls of the Barbara Bush wing at Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine, I was reminded how fortunate I was to have a child who could walk out of the hospital in a few days. There were other children who were going through radiation, chemotherapy, saying good-bye to their parents forever.

I’m thankful my child is active and healthy, despite her diagnosis. Granted, her perspective is very different than mine, but as an adult, I can appreciate what we do have, and try not to dwell on what we don’t. But my heart breaks every time I drop her off at a friend’s house. I allot time to meet with the parents and explain diabetes, give them a list of emergency numbers, a cheat sheet to monitoring my child’s health, and then I text my daughter every few hours reminding her to cover her popcorn and chips and snacks she’s having with her friends. I’m the nagging mother. My daughter’s life depends on it.

We all need our outlets. I’m a romance writer. I write to escape the craziness of my regular day job, the hectic life of being a mom to three active kids, and to create romantic heroes (my husband is awesome and loyal and reliable…but he ain’t no romantic!). In my second book, False Hope, the heroine is diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. I wrote this book shortly after my daughter was diagnosed. I thought about writing a women’s fiction novel about a mother whose daughter struggles with the disease and started that novel, but it became too personal. Instead, I incorporated diabetes into my contemporary romance series. Emma Fulton leads a healthy, active lifestyle but faces many obstacles in her life and her new diagnosis is only a small part. Just one more thing to add to her already full plate.

What I love about Emma is that the disease doesn’t own her. It is a part of her, one she may try to forget about, but it follows her around and weaves its way into her life. We can’t escape from our problems, but need to learn how to face them, live with them, or change them.

Eating well-balanced meals, drinking lots of water, and exercising are all important and can help maintain a healthy life, but there are no guarantees. Live life to the fullest and brace all life has to offer.

And read. Read to learn, to escape, to dream.

False Hope
Mason Tucker prefers solitude and the company of his laptop, but when vivacious Emma Fulton begs for his computer expertise in tracking down family secrets, he agrees in order to keep an eye on the feisty brunette, as trouble seems to follow her wherever she goes.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--#CHOCOLATE BODY PAINT ;-)

photo by Andrew Mager
It’s officially not summer for a few weeks, but yesterday ushered in the start of the summer season. That means we’ll be eating a lot of ice cream during the hot months ahead.

In Finding Mr. Right, the short story sequel Lois Winston wrote to Hooking Mr. Right, she includes a recipe for edible body paint. We’re not necessarily advocating our readers go all Fifty Shades. After all, this is a G/PG-rated blog! However, for the less adventuresome, Trulee Delectable Chocolate Body Paint is equally tasty on ice cream, fruit, and cake.

Trulee Delectable Chocolate Body Paint

4 oz. butter
5 oz. unsweetened chocolate
12 oz. evaporated milk
1 lb. confectioner’s sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond or peppermint extract

Melt butter and chocolate on top of a double boiler. Remove from heat. Beat in evaporated milk, then confectioner’s sugar. Return to double boiler and continue to heat for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens. Stir in extract once mixture has thickened. Serve warm or cold. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers.

Finding Mr. Right
In this short story sequel to the award-winning Hooking Mr. Right by Lois Winston (writing as Emma Carlyle,) editor Grace Wainwright, has taken over the role of bestselling author and romance guru Dr. Trulee Lovejoy. Thea Chandler, the original Trulee, is now married to her Mr. Right and is a successful cookbook author. She and Grace host the top-rated Love Recipes cooking show. When producer Becket Delaney announces the first two shows in February will have a Valentine’s Day theme, Grace freaks out. The worst day of her life occurred on Valentine’s Day ten years ago, and she wants no reminders of it. Beck has his own reasons for hating the holiday, but the show must go on, and he absolutely refuses to deal with an uncooperative prima donna. When a citywide blackout traps him and Grace in his thirty-fourth floor office, their adversarial relationship really begins to heat up. Recipe included.

Finding Mr. Right is available as a .99 cent ebook or as a bonus short story in the paperback edition of Hooking Mr. Right.

Buy Links
Nook 
Kobo 

Monday, May 25, 2015

MEMORIAL DAY 2015

Arlington National Cemetery 
Anastasia and the gang are taking the day off to honor all those brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for our freedom. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR ELIZABETH JOHN

Elizabeth John writes contemporary romance and romantic suspense. Her debut novel, Judging Joey, recently released. Learn more about Elizabeth at her website

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?

I’m going to date myself, but many years ago I had seen an article on Candlelight Ecstasy Romances. My mom cheered me on by saying, “You’ve been reading those kinds of books for years. You could write those, too.” At that time I had recently married, moved to a different state, and had started a new job, so I took that article with me and kept it folded in my nightstand. Every so often I would pull it out, and one day, I just started writing. You see, I had a degree in Economics and worked in investment banking, so the whole idea was foreign to me. I wrote for enjoyment until I was pregnant with my son and worked part-time. Then I saw another full color spread on Romance Writers and this organization called Romance Writers of America. I had no idea such a group existed. The phone number of the local chapter president was in the article, and she was encouraging people to join the group. I couldn’t believe an actual famous author would give out her phone number! I was nervous but determine. This was a chance of a lifetime for me, so I called. She was pleasant and easy to talk to. I joined my local chapter right away. Those were fascinating times. I met some of my best friends because of that article.

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?

Everyone’s journey is different and some take longer than others. Like mine. I left the banking industry after my second child. Really, it left me because there was a bank merger and my department moved out of state. By then, I was a board member of my local chapter. My first manuscript won an award. Editors requested my work. I was on my way! Or so I thought.

My husband and I bought a house that took forever to be built, so we moved out of state again and in with my parents. Eight people using one bathroom. Need I say more? I threw myself into my writing. It was therapeutic. I sold my first essay to the newspaper, and then another. I had to make some money, so I started writing and selling articles for small magazines. When we moved to our new house, I wrote a weekly ‘Spotlight’ article with a local paper, and through networking with my writer’s group, I connected with an editor of a large newspaper. For a few years, I became a freelance correspondent, and I wrote what the editor assigned. I landed a job working part-time with my state as a ceremonial resolutions writer. I really loved that job. Unfortunately, the commute was a challenge for a mom with small children. It took me a while to realize even though I was making some money as a writer, I wasn’t writing what I desired--fiction. So I regrouped.

I had always thought of being a teacher too and hoped its flexible schedule would enable me to be there for my family and write books. I couldn’t write for a few years while I went for another degree at night and worked as a teacher during the day. Then several years later, I threw myself back into the fiction world. I went to conferences, got on the board of my local chapter again and have been writing ever since. My first full-length novel was recently released. Sweet!

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?

I’m traditionally published with Soul Mate Publishing.

Where do you write?

All over the place. I have carved out a spot for myself in the basement. Right now, the basement looks like we’re hoarders, and I find it a challenge to work with clutter. Organizing my office is on a very long ‘To Do’ list. I get up an hour early each morning to write before I have to leave for my day job, so I write at the kitchen table at that time while my coffee’s brewing. Presently, I’m on a much needed vacation and am writing this on the deck of our hotel in beautiful, sunny Florida while my husband is doing laps in the pool. I have learned to write anywhere. That’s one habit I picked up as a freelance correspondent. Many phone interviews were conducted with toddlers crawling around my feet.

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?

I prefer silence. However, that’s not always possible. Sometimes I put in my earbuds and listen to Karen Carpenter music on Pandora. I also have a collection of yoga and nature sounds types of music.

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?

My stories are about normal people living normal lives who are faced with something out of the ordinary. In my book, Judging Joey, Madeline has to deal with working alongside the man who broke her heart in high school. So my plots start with, ‘What if…?’ As a writer, I’m always observing others. Characters in my books are purely fictional, but they may say something I’ve heard someone say or do something I’ve seen someone do. I take bits of my observations and form them into my characters. I think most writers do that.

Describe your process for naming your character?

The first names of my main characters always pop into my head. I can’t explain it. They tell me their names and show me what they look like. Secondary character names are different. I’m conscious of ethnicity, geographic locations, age, and things like that. I have books on baby names and a writer’s book on character names to help. Once I come up with a name, taking care that I haven’t used too many names that start with the same initial, I search the Internet for any infamous connections.

Real settings or fictional towns?

I’ve written both, but now I’m steering toward fictional. There’s usually a villain in my books, and I think it’s just easier to stick to fictional locations. Of course, in my mind, these fictitious towns are based on a real town somewhere that I’ve been.

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?

In Judging Joey, Madeline quotes her uncle’s expressions. For example, he says, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” I think it’s so endearing and shows how much she cares for him.

What’s your quirkiest quirk?

That’s an interesting question. Give me a minute to think about that. Okay, I have a few, but here’s one. When I read a print book, I always use a bookmark, and when I hold my place, the bookmark has to be right side up. Never upside down. Is that quirky?

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I think it’s a story that people continue to love throughout the generations.

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?

Ah, I think everything happens for a reason, so no do-overs. That being said, I wish I had believed in myself more and kept writing novels and not gotten distracted from my goals. However, this was my journey, and I’m finally in a position in which I have a steady income and a day job I enjoy. I raised two incredible children who are now wonderful adults, and I am free to pursue writing fiction.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

I don’t like waste, so it bugs me when people leave the lights, TV, and radios on when no one is in the room. Let’s conserve energy. Every day is Earth Day!

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?

Do people count? Then it would have to be my family. Next would be my two dogs and unlimited paper and writing implements. How else can I record all my stories?

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?

That would have to be a paper route in the old days when kids delivered the newspapers. The boy who had the coveted route split it up and gifted me with one of the less desirable pieces. I was twelve, na├»ve, and grateful for the opportunity to make some money. He got the money and I got the tips. Sometimes people were unfriendly, and if I got a nickel for a whole week’s work, I was happy. It took me a long time to figure out that the boy was getting paid from the newspaper for the work I did. But that’s how it was, and if you were lucky enough to get one of the pieces, you kept it or transferred it to your little brother.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?

Pick only one? I can’t do it. I loved The Help by Kathryn Stockett, because of her characterization, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, for her plotting, and The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley. That book was a pure gem of a find. She had won a Rita at the last RWA conference. I immediately recognized the cover background and knew I already had one of her books. Turns out, I had two. Talk about cover branding. Anyway, I didn’t have any expectations, but when I was drawn into her world, I didn’t want to leave. It was a beautifully written book.

Ocean or mountains?

I’m all about the beach, sand, shells, and crashing waves.

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?

I love to live in the suburbs, but be near a city. Museums, shows, great restaurants, these are places I love to visit. I worked in Manhattan for years and miss the hustle and bustle sometimes. On the flip side, I enjoy quiet, so I need to be able to escape the crowds and find peace.

What’s on the horizon for you?

Right now, I’m working on a romantic suspense novel that involves three sisters who own a family wedding dress shop. Each sister will have her own story and the three books are connected but can stand alone.
  
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?

My contemporary romances tend to have a bit of mystery or suspense, and I think that’s what makes them different. Judging Joey is a sweet, contemporary romance with a bit of a mystery. I think readers are looking for sweet romances and they’re becoming harder to find. The book I’m working on now is a sweet romantic suspense. It’s not going to be too gritty. I’d like to call my books Sweet and Cozy Romantic Suspense. My dream is to be on the beach one day and see people around me in their chairs or on their towels reading my book. Wouldn’t that be cool?

Judging Joey
Madeline White must return to her hometown to help her uncle, her only family. She gets a job teaching and sees the man who broke her heart back in high school. Then she discovers he’s the school’s Safety Officer and his nephew is her student! Madeline’s determined to clear the air with him and hopes they can be civil to one another. When she builds up the courage for a painful reunion, she is shocked that he doesn’t remember her.

Officer Joey O’Neill is committed to his job, so after the beautiful redhead accuses him of the contrary, he takes offense. When Madeline informs him they’ve met before, he insists she’s mistaken. Although his family wants him to settle down and judges his carefree bachelorhood lifestyle, it doesn’t mean he forgets the people in his life. Past or present.

Like years before, people begin to whisper about her when things go missing in the school. Joey starts to wonder if what they say is true. As the past comes back to haunt Madeline, she struggles with a secret that jeopardizes her job and hopes she can trust Joey. Has he finally outgrown being a wise-cracking jock?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

#TRAVEL WITH SERENA--#ISRAEL AND #JORDAN WITH GUEST AUTHOR BARBARA PHINNEY

Author Barbara Phinney returns today to tell us about her recent trip to Israel and Jordan. Learn more about Barbara and her books at her website. 

Hi, it's Barbara Phinney here. Thank you, Lois, for hosting me, especially when I get to blog about traveling. I had originally planned to 'speak' about Bolivia, because my book, Hard Target, is set there, and I have visited the country twice. Perhaps Lois will host me again, so I might share my experiences with you.

But today's blog will feature another exciting place. I recently visited Israel and Jordan, and those two wonderful countries still linger in my mind. And when I talk about it, the most frequently asked question is, "Did you feel safe?"

Very much so, I'm happy to say. Both are incredibly safe countries, despite the doom and gloom of our news broadcasters. In fact, you couldn't walk into our hotels in Jordan without going through airport styled security! But, to be honest, I was with a large tour group and the most dangerous thing my husband and I did was walk down to the Old City wall the evening we first arrived in Jerusalem. Which, by the way, was spectacular, even at night. I recommend a tour of Israel to everyone. You may not go to church, or your faith may be far different than mine, but one thing no one can deny is that the countries of Jordan and Israel have influenced history for thousands of years, and they continue to do so to this day. While every tour highlights Holy Sites, we also visited a diamond factory, a UN observation post, a Dead Sea resort, Petra, the Holocaust Museum and even a kibbutz. Not to mention seeing a bit of interesting wildlife. Why, at the kibbutz one night, we heard hyenas!

So, while I have no novel set in the Holy Land, yet, I do have a writer's mind. You can be sure that something of what I've seen and visited will come bubbling to the surface in one or two of my future novels. And like my gracious hostess, I'm a blogger, too and thus 'journaled' about my trip. So if you're interested, you can find my experience (a little something for later reference, if you will) here.

I encourage everyone to travel. The world is diverse and interesting, and like many places, the Holy Land is steeped in history. My hope for you is that wherever you go, you'll take along a good book (I suggest one of the books to the right of this blog) and enjoy yourself. Bon Voyage!

Hard Target
Military policewoman, Sgt. Dawna Atkinson, is trained to keep her South American embassy safe, but when a bomb is detonated out front one morning, her home unit sends her old instructor, Tay Hastings, to assist with the investigation.

Tay is the one person who can ruin all she's worked so hard for. He's also her one weakness, thanks to a night of shared indiscretion that still haunts her dreams.

Tay wants to tell her how he fought to take the blame for that night, and how she makes him feel, but circumstances prevent that. As the investigation heats up, they find that it's one thing to guard the embassy, but another, much harder thing to guard their own hearts.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

#DECORATING WITH JEANIE--GUEST AUTHOR CHRISTINA TETREAULT

Christina Tetreault began writing at the age of ten on her grandmother's manual typewriter and never stopped. Currently, she’s the author of two romance series, The Sherbrookes of Newport and Love on The North Shore. Learn more about Christina and her books at her website. 

Much as there are trends in fashion, which change from year to year and from decade to decade, there are also trends in interior decorating. Some trends are timeless while there are others that everyone would like to forget. For example, I love walking into a stately home built around the turn of the 20th century with its dark hard wood and built in window seats. However, I still cringe every time I think of my grandmother’s bathroom with its blue and pink tile, pink toilet, pink tub and pink sink. Sometimes I wonder how my poor grandfather lived with it for all those years.

So let’s take a look at some of the trends from the past. In the 1940’s old hand-me-down furniture was common and kitchens were functional, complete with stark white appliances. The 1950’s ushered in rugs with patterns and floral wallpaper. I think I visited plenty of houses stuck in this decade when I was house hunting a few years ago.

The 1960’s were a time of rebellion for many, and interiors were often decorated in brightly mismatched colors. Wall-to-wall carpet became the norm in the 1970’s. Some people even put it in their bathrooms, if you can believe that.  During the 1970’s people started to care less about style and more about comfort. Of course that did not last as the 1980’s ushered in a period of material success and people wanted their homes to at least look like they spent a fortune decorating them. We’ve all been in a few of these homes.

Thankfully, styles again changed, and the 1990’s paved the way for the interiors we tend to see today. Interiors, which are more influenced by comfort and function then looking like you spent a million dollars. Of course, even today they vary greatly from home to home and country to country, often reflecting the personality of the people who live there.

Illustrated throughout this post are just a few of the different interiors I found while doing some research for my book Redeeming The Billionaire, which features an interior designer as my heroine.  These images are courtesy of Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici, Sira Anamwong and digidreamgrafix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Redeeming The Billionaire
Billionaire Trent Sherbrooke works hard and plays harder. He’s never once cared what the media or society says about him, until now.  In order to make it into the United States Senate Trent needs to clean up his reputation and Addison Raimono is just the woman to help him. But soon what he assumed would be a relationship to salvage his reputation turns into so much more. But can a relationship started on a lie ever survive?