Check your sleep.

Check the quality of your sleep. This monitors how long and how well you slept. It can even wake you up with a gentle vibrating alarm that won't awaken your partner.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Best of the Independent Ebooks!



Readers! Eight award winners in the 2012 eFestival of Words "Best of the Independent eBook Awards" have grouped together to offer you an amazing opportunity. They've reduced the prices of their award-winning novels to 99 cents for August 27 and 28th!

Whether you like to read mysteries, romance, horror, young adult, women's fiction, or fantasy, this group has it. Are you a writer yourself? Do you want to learn all about digitally publishing your next masterpiece? They've got you covered there too.





Award Winners


Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Power Bar that's not just for weightlifters!

In keeping with the Olympic theme, I want to introduce to you another food. A couple of posts ago, I gave you the recipe for stuffed grape vine leaves, to help get into the spirit of the Olympics. Now we're going to get into the feel of the athletes.
So, introducing, (drum roll and and national anthem, please, after all this is a gold medal recipe!) Yum Bars! The ultimate Power Bar!
It's an amazingly easy recipe to create, but you have to be a little particular about the wet versus dry ingredients.
If you find the mixture to be a little wet, simply add a little more flaked quinoa. If you find the mixture to be a little dry, at a little bit more agave syrup. If you don't have any flaked quinoa, try finely milled or instant oatmeal. Just keep the ingredients as natural as possible. If you don't have any agave syrup, try a brown rice syrup or maple syrup. Again while trying to keep the ingredients as natural as possible, I would avoid things like corn syrup. Agave syrup is far sweeter, so you don't need much.
And don't forget to use parchment paper to line the loaf pan because it makes cleanup and removal of the bars that much easier.


Yum Bars

3 dried figs, finely chopped
3 seeded prunes, finely chopped
3/4 cup finely chopped dates
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons agave syrup
1/2 cup hulled pumpkin seeds, unsalted
1 cup hulled sunflower seeds, unsalted
1/2 cup flaked quinoa
1/2 cup dried blueberries, or other dried small fruit
1/2 cup hulled hemp seeds
1/2 cup medium unsweetened flaked coconut
1/4 cup chopped pecans

Put the first five ingredients in a small pot and bring to a boil. Simmer until soft. Add remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Firmly press the mixture into a parchment paper-lined loaf pan. This is where little bit of practice comes in handy. If the mixture feels quite soft, try adding a little bit more quinoa. If it seems to be a bit crumbly, mix in about a tablespoon of agave syrup.


Chill in the refrigerator until cool and firm. If you don't notice the texture isn't quite right until after it comes out of the refrigerator, simply warm it up in the microwave for about 30 seconds and correct it again. Once you're happy with consistency, cut them into small bars wrap them in plastic and keep them in the freezer, for a quick snack that drives off hunger for a long time.

Food is often featured prominently in my books. While some authors barely mention it and their characters work through the story without even taking a bite, (gasp!) my characters, like me, stop and eat. A lot. In my book, Hard Target, because it is set in Bolivia, there's lots of coca tea drunk, and the strong coffee is served in teapots that have no lids! But considering they're all served with delicious alfajores and other warm pastries, my characters, like me when I went there, never bothered to ask.
In my book, Deadly Trust, my hero eats mostly fast food in his car. My heroine generally eats only gourmet food, but by chapter 2, she has an irresistible craving for hot french fries. (I wonder why?)  So food is important. it connects people, feeding not only the body, but the soul, too.
And I hope you'll try these power bars, and find them worthy of your Olympic athlete in training, (you, that is!) and you enjoy them as much as I do.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Memories, Olympics and a small embarrassment no Mother should commit

In keeping with my Olympic theme, I want to share with you my thoughts on European football/soccer.

Okay, I am not the most avid soccer/football fan, although I like to watch the game. But I have a little confession to make. Whenever my children played soccer, I was always faithfully there, well, in body only. As a writer, I often took I writing with me on the road, and during the lulls in the games, I would edit my current manuscript. During that time, my kids would be sitting on the bench waiting to play, and I would look up occasionally from my manuscript and stop what I was doing if my kids were on the field.

But hey, at least I watched them play and paid attention! Not quite like when my son played American football, and I cheered when the other team scored a touchdown because I had been busy writing. (Not one of my more glowing memories, I can assure you, but afterward we went out for ice cream. My treat. It was the least I could do.)

But what has drawn me back to the game is watching the Olympics. Recently, the Canadian women's team squared off against the US team, and it was a tight game. And I actually was very interested. And although the Canadians lost in overtime, all people around the world can be proud of their efforts. They've come a long way, and though another team may be your favorite, you have to admit the Canadians played well.

European football/soccer is the most popular sport in the world. When I visited Bolivia the first time, the World Cup was on and Bolivia was supporting their neighbor, Brazil. Neon yellow jerseys abounded. I was in Bolivia for mission work, but at the same time I was also gathering fodder for another story.

Hard Target came out of that trip, and although they don't play soccer/football in the story, whenever I hear a football or Brazil with their bold neon yellow colors, or think of European rules football, my mind doesn't always go to my kids' games, but instead takes me back to Bolivia and onto a winding trail that leads to Hard Target.

And sometimes, we would stop for ice cream.

Hard Target




Under siege, her life and her heart...


Sgt. Dawna Atkinson has worked hard for her South American
embassy posting. She'd also taken the blame for a shared indiscretion with her
instructor, Tay Hastings.

But when her embassy is bombed, she comes under the
microscope all the more. Worse still, her unit sends Tay to search for any
mistakes she's making.

Things go from bad to worse when a sniper tries to eliminate
both Dawna and Tay within hours of Tay's arrival.

Tay had tried to take the blame for that one night of
passion, but when that failed, he quit his instructor's post. But circumstances
force him not to reveal any of this.

Dawna has her own secrets. She inwardly questions if Tay is
somehow linked to the sniper, who later is discovered murdered. Did Tay panic
when the sniper called Dawna and promised to reveal all to her?

As the investigation heats up, and danger lurks around every
crowded corner, Dawna and Tay find their relationship is also heating up. And
with a killer who can create bombs, use a sniper rifle, and poison the embassy
staff, Dawna must set aside her hurt or risk many lives. And Tay must set aside
the distrust deep within him.

What Dawna and Tay can't set aside is their growing
attraction. And that may just get them both killed.




Excerpt

Chapter One

The bomb exploded at precisely six-oh-four in the morning. Its blast rocked through Sergeant Dawna Atkinson's beat-up Fiat just as she entered the city's largest square. Ahead, despite the early hour, the block hummed with people, people who were not all running away from the old school which housed the embassy.

No, a few were running toward the large building.

Her grip tight on the steering wheel, Dawna shook her head. Those civilians were either incredibly foolish or incredibly brave.

Or members of a drug cartel determined to undermine the strengthening democracy here in Bolivia. They'd already ruined the capital of La Paz for many foreign nationals and displaced ambassadors to other cities like Cochabamba.

She gritted her teeth. Tramping her foot down on the accelerator, she darted into the early morning traffic, now thick with post-explosion chaos.

Smoke spewed into the smoggy morning sky in a single, ugly belch, its source a black, burning mound in front of the doors that led into the embassy's enclosed courtyard. Snapping her attention back to her driving, Dawna steered the car into a narrow alley across the square from the embassy and jumped out. No time for her locking bar, normally a must in most South American cities. With any luck, someone would steal the old rust bucket and inherit all of its mechanical woes.

She threaded through the noisy crowd, her long, quick strides carrying her over the numerous cracks in the sidewalk that sliced through the park-like square. Loud Spanish voices bounced around her as she hurried past the white monument of some long-dead dignitary on horseback. Already, the acrid smell of burning metal and ancient building materials penetrated the growing warmth of the early July morning.

She pushed past an old native man, who coughed out something in Spanish. Charging through the rest of the square, she reached the area in front of the embassy. There, she stopped Miguel Ramos, one of the vigilantes, a security guard, just as he raced away from the small door that led to the courtyard, the one used for foot traffic only. He'd worked the night shift and must have been leaving when the blast occurred. Surely he would know something.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Celebrate the Olympics with Greek Food

To help celebrate the Summer Olympics, I thought I would post my favorite Greek recipe. My kids are crazy about this recipe, and I'm sure I'll be giving some of these to my married daughter to take on her camping trip this weekend.

So give them a try, they are actually not very hard to make. And if I can't screw them up they are sure to be a hit in your house, too.

 

Dolmades

50 large grapevine leaves

1 pound ground chicken or pork

3 tablespoons fresh chopped mint

3 green onions chopped

1 tablespoon fresh chopped dill

1/2 medium onion finely chopped

1 cup sushi rice, raw

1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 L of chicken broth

1 tablespoon lemon juice

 

If you're using the jar of grapevine leaves, all you need to do is rinse the leaves and pat them dry. If you using fresh grapevine leaves, make sure that they are pesticide free and picked in the morning. Blanch the leaves by plunging them into boiling water for about 1 min, then draining them and laying them on a cookie sheet.

Mix the meat, herbs, salt, pepper and onion thoroughly and then mix in the rice.

Fold  a leaf in half lengthwise, at the stem end, and with a pair of scissors, trim off the stem and a small portion of the radiating veins. Lay the leaf topside down, and drop about 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of the meat mixture into the center of the leaf. Fold the sides in, and then roll the leaf up. You'll have a nice round little package. Set the dolmade down so it won't unravel. Continue this was all your grapevine leaves.

Any ripped grapevine leaves or those that appear to be fragile may be used to cover the top of the dolmades. Grease a fireproof dish and lay out all the dolmades, then cover them with any unused or torn leaves. Use a fireproof plate, casserole dish, or something of similar shape but slightly smaller over top of your dolmades, to help weigh them down. They must not be boiled but simmered gently, so that they do not unravel.

Gently pour in the chicken broth and lemon juice to cover the dolmades, and simmer in the oven set at 350° for about one hour. After that time, check the center dolmade to see if it is cooked through, and the rice is not hard.

You can eat these right away, but they improve with sitting in the refrigerator for a day. They may be eaten cold or warmed up.

This is what they looked like when I took them out of the oven. For the round dish, I had used a smaller lid to keep the dolmades secure, and for the rectangular dish I had used a glass loaf pan. Enjoy and be as adventurous as the Ancient Greeks who first ate them!