Saturday, August 8, 2015

Among the Fair Magnolias #LoveStories #Review

A complimentary review copy was provided to me.

I've discovered a new love and yet I find it frustrating too! What you ask? Novellas. Short Stories.

I recently had the chance to read Among the Fair Magnolias, a collection of four period fiction novellas. Three of the stories were captivating and I quickly joined into the lives of the main characters (it says Southern Women, but I feel that An Outlaw's heart is as much, if not more, about Russell than Nora). It was satisfying to pick up the book and read the story in one sitting. The novellas were each around 90 pages, perfect for a quick read. However, when I got to the end, I was so bummed that it was over already...as I had already become invested in the story and wanted to know more.

I want to clarify, as I say three of the stories were captivating and the book contains four novellas. For whatever reason, the one story just was difficult for me to quickly engage in - I read it, but the experience was not the same for me as it was with the other stories. I will not dwell on this, because the overall book is great.

I think my favorite story was To Mend a Dream by Tamera Alexander. There was just something about Savannah that I found hard to resist. I haven't read any other stories by Tamera Alexander, but based on this short, I would love to check out some of her other books.

An Outlaw's Heart by Shelley Gray was the first, non-Amish work that I have read by her. She is one of my favorite current authors and I find all of her works to have great character development and a story the reader can easily engage in; this story was no different.

If you enjoy period fiction and if you enjoy a quick read, like this busy mom, then I recommend checking out Among the Fair Magnolias.

About the book:
Among the Fair Magnolias (Thomas Nelson, July 2015)

In the most turbulent decade of our nation's history, four Southern women---destinies forged by birth, hearts steeled by war---face near impossible choices on their journeys in life . . . and in love.

To Mend a Dream by Tamera Alexander
Savannah Darby would do almost anything to revisit her family home. So when new owner, Aidan Bedford, a Boston attorney and former Union soldier, seeks to redecorate the house for his fiancée, Savannah jumps at the opportunity. But the clock is ticking. Can she find the box her father supposedly hid there during the war before her assignment is completed? And before she sees yet another battle lost on the home front. This time, one of the heart.

An Outlaw's Heart by Shelley Gray

When Russell Stark returns to Fort Worth, he's determined to begin a new life. But when he arrives at his mother's homestead, he discovers she's very ill, and the woman he loved is still as beautiful and sweet as he remembered. With time running out, Russell must come to terms with both his future and his past.

A Heart So True by Dorothy Love
Abigail knows all too well what is expected of her: to marry her distant cousin Charles and take her place in society. But her heart belongs to another. A terrible incident forces Abby to choose between love and duty.

Love Beyond Limits by Elizabeth Musser
Emily has a secret: She's in love with one of the freedmen on her family's plantation. Meanwhile, another man declares his love for her. Emily realizes some things are not as they seem and secrets must be kept in order to keep those she loves safe.

Purchase a copy here.

About the authors:

Tamera Alexander is the best-selling author of numerous books including A Lasting Impression and The Inheritance. Tamera is a two-time Christy Award winner, two-time RITA winner, and a recipient of the prestigious Library Journal Award. A native of west Tennessee. website, Twitter, Facebook

Dorothy Love makes her home in the Texas hill country with her husband and their golden retriever. An award-winning author of numerous young adult novels, Dorothy made her adult debut with the Hickory Ridge novels. website, Twitter, Facebook

Shelley Gray is the author of The Heart of a Hero series. Her Amish novel (written as Shelley Shepard Gray), The Protector, recently made the New York Times best seller list. website, Twitter, Facebook

Elizabeth Musser, a native of Atlanta, Georgia now living in France, is a novelist who writes what she calls 'entertainment with a soul.' For over 25 years, Elizabeth and her husband, Paul, have been involved in mission work with International Teams. website, Twitter, Facebook

Learn more about the book, the authors and read other reviews on the Blog Tour page.

No compensation was received for this review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family. A complimentary review copy was provided to me.

Monday, July 27, 2015

‘Among the Fair Magnolias’ Southern Hearts Kindle Fire Giveaway

No compensation received for this post. This information was provided through the publisher in promotion of the book.
Four best-selling novelists bring tales of four Southern women who face near impossible choices on their journeys in life and in love during the most turbulent decade of our nation’s history in Among the Fair MagnoliasDon't miss this collection of stories from Tamera Alexander, Shelley Gray, Dorothy Love, and Elizabeth Musser.




Join the authors in celebrating the release of Among the Fair Magnolias by entering to win their Southern Hearts Kindle Fire Giveaway and RSVPing to their August 13th author chat party!




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One grand prize winner will receive:


  • A Kindle Fire HD 6
  • One copy of Among the Fair Magnolias
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on 8/13. The winner will be announced at the Among the Fair Magnolias Facebook party. RSVP for a chance to connect with Tamera, Dorothy, Shelley, and Elizabeth, as well as for a chance to win some great prizes!




magnolias-enterbanner

RSVP today and spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via FACEBOOK, TWITTER, or PINTEREST and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 13th!


No compensation received for this post. This information was provided through the publisher in promotion of the book.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Top Your Dog - National Hot Dog Month #Hormel

*information for this post was in part supplied by Hormel Foods through their Hormel Extended Family Blogger program. No compensation was received for this post.
Did you know that July is National Hot Dog Month? Not only can you celebrate all month long, but there is even a specific day dedicated to the love of hot dogs - last Thursday (July 23rd) was also National Hot Dog Day (now why do Mom's get just a day and Hot Dogs get both a day and a month?). Here are some fun facts about hot dogs to get you started:

- Americans are expected to eat at least 7 billion hot dogs this summer, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (http://www.hot-dog.org/)
- Ten percent of annual retail hot dog sales occur during July
- Sausage consumption is on the rise with sales reaching $2.5 billion in 2014

Depending on where you grew up, the way you enjoy your dog may be very different (who knew?). When I was a kid, my preferred way to eat a hot dog was very plain. I preferred it just zapped in the microwave. If it was grilled or cooked on the campfire, my primary request was that it was still mostly pink. As for toppings, ketchup was sufficient to meet my needs. As I have gotten older, my tastes have changed. After trying stadium mustard, I decided that it was my preferred 'plain' dog topping and now I skip the ketchup. But, I also like to dress it up too!

For a long time, adding some chili and cheese to it was a great way to enjoy a hot dog. Used to be that I reserved chili dog consumption to eating out, but now I know that I can simply use a can of Hormel chili (no beans variety for me) to create this flavor at home.

Then, we tried this local hot dog shop that dresses their dogs in so many varieties that I would never have considered. It was here that I found another favorite - the Greek Hot Dog. Top your hot dog with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, kalamata olives, green onion and feta cheese. It is amazing how good that combination tastes.

Of course, corn dogs were always a favorite when we were at the fair. I found a quick and easy way to prepare them at home as Corn Dog Muffins, and they are portable...perfect for taking to the kids' baseball or softball games.

Now, switch that dog up for some sausage - the standard variety or for even more range of flavor chicken sausage - and for me, at least, it opens up many additional ways to dress the sandwich. I am a big fan of topping my regular sausage with a bit of mustard and some sauerkraut. Or, topping it with some grilled onions and peppers.

I was exploring the Hormel Recipe Site and their Hot Dog Pinterest Board and found some other really interesting sounding hot dog recipes that I will have to try. How about Mac n Cheese Dogs?
Or Bacon Wrapped Hot Dogs?

Hosting a cookout? Why not keep the menu simple, and the possibilities endless by setting up a toppings bar. Fire up the grill and prepare for your guests some hot dogs and some sausage (I recommend a chicken sausage to mix it up). Maybe even wrap a few in bacon for added flavor. You can go for some plain hot dog buns or get New England Style with their top split. For your toppings bar, use a variety of bowls to hold your toppings. I would include the following - ketchup, mustard, diced onions, pickle relish, Mac and Cheese, chili, shredded cheddar cheese, diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, cucumbers, kalamata olives, green onions, jalapenos, salsa, grilled peppers and onions.

What other toppings would you include on your toppings bar?


No compensation was received for this post. All opinions expressed are mine or those of my family. I am completing this post as a participant in the Hormel Foods Extended Family Blogger program. Hormel Foods provided some product samples for my family to try. I also receive thought starters and information that can be used in a post.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Minions! - Giveaway #MinionsandGenMills

No compensation was received for this post. A gift pack, information about the partnership, and the giveaway package have been provided by General Mills. All opinions expressed are entirely my own or that of my family.
At my house, we have been anxiously awaiting the release of Minions. So much so, that we already have the movie time scheduled on our calendar. In fact, yesterday, while at work, I received a text from my husband with information on what times we could see the movie, pretty much as soon as the schedule for the weekend box office was up.

We have been fans of the Minions since we first met them in the Despicable Me. Last year, I made these cute Minion Valentine's Day 'cards' for my daughter to take to school:

You can check out this exclusive Minions movie trailer from General Mills for a special sneak peak of one the summer’s biggest premieres:
video


Just in time for their new movie to take the summer box office, General Mills has teamed up with the Minions to offer exclusive Minions Buddies in every specially marked box of General Mills cereals!

General Mills is once again connecting fans with what they love. Hidden inside each box, you will find one of six select Minions Buddies about to hit the big screen.

Minions and cereal fans alike can collect all six Buddies in each participating brand of General Mills cereals, including Honey Nut Cheerios, Banana Nut Cheerios, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Reese’s Puffs, Trix and Golden Grahams. The specially marked boxes of Big G cereals hit store shelves this month, for a limited time only. General Mills has additionally released specially marked packing of participating Betty Crocker fruit flavored snacks, including Fruit Roll-Ups, Fruit by the Foot and Gushers.



Giveaway!
One A Busy Mom of Two reader will win a Minion Prize Pack courtesy of General Mills. Prize pack includes a box of a participating General Mills cereal, a box of a participating Betty Crocker fruit flavored snack, an exclusive Minions Buddy and a $25 Fandango gift card

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Giveaway will remain open through July 19th and is open to residents of the US only. Winners will be selected through Rafflecopter. The winner will be contacted by e-mail and will have 24 hours to respond or a new winner will be selected.

No compensation was received for this post. A gift pack, information about the partnership, and the giveaway package have been provided by General Mills. All opinions expressed are entirely my own or that of my family. The recipe is from my personal collection.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

In Good Company by Jen Turano #BookReview

A complimentary review copy was provided to me.
Last week during my garage sale, the mailman came to the door with several packages and one of them was the new book by Jen Turano - In Good Company. I started to read the book during a lull in the sale and was hooked immediately. I found myself picking it up when I had a few minutes between people stopping at the sale. There was just something so compelling the story that Jen Turano was telling. It wasn't one of those books where you needed to read a few chapters to get started, I was drawn in before I finished reading the first chapter and it just kept pulling me along.
The book In Good Company is set in 1882 in New York City and Newport. The first chapter of the story introduces us to Millie Longfellow, a young lady that is determined to be the best nanny but seemingly has found herself in a bit of trouble and being dismissed from her job, again. When Everett Mulberry finds himself in need of care for the three children that he has been given guardianship of because yet another nanny has quit, the agency pairs them up...giving them each one last chance, each other.

Millie has a way with the children and though her methods are called into question, she proves that she knows what she is doing when she able to find a way to get the children to not only cooperate but to begin to be the children that Everett remembers from visiting them at their home. As Everett spends more time with Millie and around the children, his perspective on what matters most evolves.

The author did a wonderful job bringing the loveable (and not so loveable) characters to life in the story. As a reader, I was compelled to continue reading (just one more page) to find out what would happen to them next, so much so that I was almost late to work one morning because I wanted to read just one chapter before heading out for the day and found myself four pages into the next before I forced myself to put the book down. We learn bits of their past to gain insight, but the story remains focused on their interactions and conversations.

This was a well written piece of period fiction. I enjoyed the references to Jane Austen and the parallels that they drew. I was amused by Millie's continued referencing of her dictionary and her attempt to insert 'big' words into her conversations. I am currently reading Anne of Green Gables with my daughter, and Millie's use of words reminded me a lot of Anne.

I found out after reading the book that it is actually the second in a series (clearly, nothing lost by reading them out of order - as I thoroughly enjoyed this book on its own). I look forward to reading the first book in the series, as well as other books by this author. In reading about her, I learned that she went to school very close to where I live. She doesn't live here now, but it is still a connection.

From the book cover:
After growing up as an orphan, Millie Longfellow is determined to become the best nanny the East Coast has ever seen. Unfortunately, her playfulness and enthusiasm aren't always well-received and she finds herself dismissed from yet another position.

Everett Mulberry has quite unexpectedly become guardian to three children that scare off every nanny he hires. About to depart for Newport, Rhode Island, for the summer, he's desperate for competent childcare.

At wit's end with both Millie and Everett, the employment agency gives them one last chance--with each other. As Millie falls in love with her mischievous charges, Everett focuses on achieving the coveted societal status of the upper echelons. But as he investigates the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of the children's parents, will it take the loss of those he loves to learn whose company he truly wants for the rest of his life?


You can learn more about the author and her other books on her website.

No compensation was received for this review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family. A complimentary review copy was provided to me.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Dinner in a Hurry: Burrito Bowls

*information for this post was in part supplied by Hormel Foods through their Hormel Extended Family Blogger program. No compensation was received for this post.
At our house, summer is punctuated with a variety of sporting events for the two kids and many times, the events overlap. The net result is that having a family dinner is increasingly more challenging, but since family dinner is something that I strongly value, I find creative ways to make it happen and to try to keep it reasonably healthy.

One thing that we have turned to this summer has been Burrito Bowls. I can prep most the night before and we can simply assemble and enjoy for dinner.

Ingredients:
Rice, prepared
Pinto and/or Black Beans, prepared
Pork, Chicken or Beef, prepared
Shredded Lettuce
Sour Cream
Shredded Cheese
Salsa - Mild, Hot, Verde

Assemble bowl, with desired ingredients, starting with the rice, the beans and the meat. Then top with the lettuce, sour cream and cheese.

Finish with desired salsas.
We love the Herdez Salsa Casera and the Herdez Salsa Verde as toppers for our bowls. They also make great dips for a side of tortilla chips. Sometimes, I even get ambitious and make some guacamole.

The last time we made bowls, I found a great product to help make the prep work even easier. I used Lloyd’s pulled pork for this. It’s this new variety I haven’t seen in store yet, but hope I do soon!
I love that it has no sauce. It makes it perfect for use in the bowls and it also allows more flexibility in my family where everyone likes their pulled pork a little different - more or less sauce, more or less spice.

What is your family's go to meal for a quick family meal during busy times?


No compensation was received for this post. All opinions expressed are mine or those of my family. I am completing this post as a participant in the Hormel Foods Extended Family Blogger program. Hormel Foods provided some product samples for my family to try. I also receive thought starters and information that can be used in a post.