Saturday, June 30, 2012

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Exclusive Interview with Ashley Townsend, Author of "Rising Shadows"!

What is this book about?
It’s about a modern-day young woman, Sarah, who gets transported back in time to the twelfth century. Her untimely appearance thrusts her into the middle of a false witch hunt in a kingdom shrouded with mystery and deception. When the only person who can help her return home is thrown in prison and sentenced to death, Sarah enlists the assistance of the Shadow -- the hooded town hero whose identity remains a secret -- to help her save her friend and uncover an assassination plot against the king. There’s a little romance between Sarah and the Shadow, which causes some internal conflict for her when she also becomes drawn to Will, a handsome and enigmatic blacksmith in town. When Sarah and Will interfere with the assassin’s plans, they find themselves trapped in the middle of a conspiracy where they become the targets in a series of disasters.

How did you get the idea for this book?
I originally wrote the idea as a short story final in my eighth-grade creative writing class and decided to start playing with the story after watching BBC’s Robin Hood series years later. Then the ideas just kept coming and changing the storyline until what it is today.

Is this your first book? If not, what else have you written?
Rising Shadows is my first book, but I have so many ideas for future novels and series, and I’m currently working on the sequel to this book.

When did you start writing? Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
I have been writing since I could make words, but I didn’t fall in love with writing until I turned eight, and then you couldn’t get me to stop -- that was when I decided I wanted to be an author. Do not give up! If you love to write, then love it with all your heart and keep on writing, regardless of what people say or the obstacles in your way. When you can’t jump over the wall blocking your path, then chip away at it until it falls or find a ladder tall enough to make your way over it. If God gave you the gift of storytelling and the dream of writing, then you can be sure He has a plan for it. Just keep working at it!

Why did you decide to write a book in this genre?
I have always loved fantasy, science fiction, and historical fiction, so that probably had the largest influence on the genres I started writing in, but I don’t think I ever did it consciously.

Do you plan a sequel or future books?
Yes! I am hard at work on the sequel to Rising Shadows and have the entire third and final book in the trilogy written out in my head.

Do you have a website? How can we order this book?
You can follow me on my website,, and also on my Facebook page, can purchase the book at or through

I love hearing about your experiences with the book and why you were drawn to certain characters, so comment on my pages or send me an email to Your support means the world to me!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fight the Signs of Aging with Smashbox!

This year I celebrated my *gulp* 34th birthday. Now, don’t get me wrong ... I don’t think 34 is old, but it just seems so weird to say it. I used to think 30s was old. I still feel pretty young, but I do see the signs of aging slowly creeping up on me ... a few sun spots, a few wrinkles, a few sags here and there. I have been on the hunt the past few years for anti-aging products that appeal to me and my skin conditions. They scare me a little. I guess I don’t really know what I am looking for, but I do know I don’t like some of the chemicals listed or the fact that I may have to take out a small loan to purchase them. So, I was very happy to review two products from Smashbox, and I believe my findings will make many of you very happy!

Let’s start with the Photo Finish Foundation Primer. This is a product I have never heard of ... a primer for your face. Let me tell you, I don’t know what I would do without it now. This silky smooth, lightweight, clear gel is a breeze to put on. Your face will feel like a baby’s bottom, and it makes the next steps of your make-up routine go more smoothly. I noticed a smoother face and less lines to have to pay attention to when applying foundation. This product comes in an easy-to-use tube that fits nicely in your make-up bag and retails for $36. It has a blend of Vitamins A and E, grape-seed extract and green tea. It’s great with or without make-up. You will definitely want to add this to your must-have list!

The Halo Hydrating Perfecting Powder is just as awesome. It comes in 6 shades ranging from fair to dark so you won’t have trouble finding your shade. This powder has a formula of pure gold, 48 minerals, and 11 amino acids that all work together to reduce the signs of aging. It retails for $59 and promises a 33% decrease in the appearance of wrinkles around the eyes in 10 minutes and a 67% decrease in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles in 6 weeks. I noticed a difference in just 13 days, and it just keeps getting better!

Check out Smashbox at Their products will not disappoint, and I love the sleek designs!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Free Blogger Opportunity for Amazon Gift Card Giveaway!

On July 6th we are having a 10 Book Group Giveaway!
We’re giving away a $100 Amazon Gift Card and a $50 Amazon Gift Card.
Plus, the blogger who refers the most sign-ups for this event will receive a $25 Amazon Gift Card!
Here are the awesome books that are sponsoring this event!

Living Sensitive (Book 1 of the Delia Rhodes Series)
Living Soul
Hunter Moon
Broken Wings (Soul Searches Book 1)
All the Blue Eyed Angels
Storm of Desire
Cheyenne, a Timeless Series Novel
Promises, a Timeless Series Novel
Finding Alice

Sign up HERE:


Monday, June 25, 2012

Save on Del Monte Gold Extra Sweet Pineapple for Summer!

For some reason, pineapple seems to taste extra sweet and delicious in the summertime! It’s a refreshing and scrumptious fruit that can be eaten any time of the day. To celebrate summer, Del Monte Fresh Produce is offering U.S. and Canadian consumers a special savings on Del Monte Gold® Extra Sweet Pineapple. Just visit their Facebook page and fill out a short form before July 15th, and you’ll be able to download a $0.50 off coupon!

And here’s another treat … a recipe from Del Monte that makes a perfect summer meal using Del Monte Gold Extra Sweet Pineapple. Enjoy!

Pineapple Chicken Kabobs Recipe

(Makes 6 (2 kabob) appetizer servings)

3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons lime juice, divided
3 tablespoons lite soy sauce, divided
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into (24) 1-inch pieces
Ground pepper to taste
1 medium Del Monte® red bell pepper, cut into (24) 1-inch squares
½ large Del Monte® sweet onion, cut into (24) 1-inch pieces
Peanut oil

To make basting sauce, in a small bowl whisk together honey, 2 tbsp. lime juice, and 2 tbsp. soy sauce until smooth.

Sprinkle chicken pieces with remaining 1 tbsp. of lime juice and soy sauce. Sprinkle with pepper to taste. Marinate 15 to 30 minutes.

Preheat grill to medium-high. Thread chicken, pineapple, red pepper, and onion alternately on 12 (6-7-inch) skewers. Discard and leftover marinade. Brush lightly with peanut oil.

Grill for 10 to 15 minutes, turning to cook all sides. Brush with basting sauce the last 5 to 10 minutes. Serve any remaining sauce over kabobs.

For a spicy variation, omit ground pepper and sprinkle chicken with Jamaican Jerk seasoning to taste.

P.S. Don't forget to CLICK HERE for your coupon!

Disclaimer: I will receive a promotional item from Del Monte as a thank you for sharing this information.

The Black Shard, by Victoria Simcox ~ A Fantastic Middle-Grade Novel Giveaway! (4 Winners)

Last month, I posted an exclusive interview with Victoria Simcox, author of The Magic Warble, and included a giveaway for the book. So, I’m thrilled to announce that the author is now offering another giveaway for the sequel: The Black Shard!

About The Black Shard:

This fast-paced, intricately woven sequel to The Magic Warble takes Kristina Kingsly and her schoolmates back to Bernovem … and into a thrilling, often dangerous adventure.

Kristina’s stay at summer horse camp is horrible to say the least, and it’s all because Hester and Davina are there as well, making her life miserable. When Hester’s cruel prank goes terribly wrong, it’s actually what sends the three girls back to the magical land of Bernovem. In Bernovem, Kristina is very excited to see her former friend, Prince Werrien. When he invites her to sail with him on his ship to his homeland Tezerel, putting it simply, Kristina can’t refuse.

Reunited with her gnome, dwarf, animal, fairy friends … and best of all, Werrien, things seem like they couldn’t get any better for Kristina. But when Werrien becomes fascinated with an unusual seeing stone, the “Black Shard,” Kristina is haunted by a ghostlike old hag. Struggling against suspicion, guilt, illness, and ultimately the one who wants to possess her soul, Kristina will see it’s in her weakest moment that she will encounter more strength than she has ever known.

The eBook version of The Black Shard sells on Amazon for just $2.99 (a great deal since many juvenile fiction ebooks run between $5.99 and $9.99).

About the Author:
Victoria was born in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, to an Austrian immigrant mother and a Dutch immigrant father. She now lives in Western Washington with her husband, Russ, and their three children, Toby, Kristina, and William. Her other family members are a Chihuahua named Pipsy and two cats, Frodo and Fritz. Besides being an author, Victoria is a home-schooling mother of twelve years and an elementary school art teacher of eleven years. In her spare time, Victoria enjoys managing her two older children’s Celtic band. She also loves writing, reading, painting watercolors, hiking, good movies, and just simply hanging out with her family and friends.


Book website:
Author’s blog:
The Black Shard on FB:!/pages/The-Black-Shard/264063053622412
Victoria Simcox on Twitter:


Author Victoria Simcox is generously offering to give away one print copy of The Black Shard (US residents only) and 3 ebooks (international). The Black Shard is 255 pages long (in print) with 1-2 pictures per chapter, and is a middle-grade novel (ages 9-13). To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway will end at 11:59 PM EDT on Monday, July 9, 2012.

Ice Age: Continental Drift Arrives in Theaters on July 13th!

My kids and I are so excited about the latest movie in the Ice Age series, Ice Age: Continental Drift! In the movie, Scrat’s nutty pursuit of the cursed acorn, which he’s been after since the dawn of time, has world-changing consequences -- a continental cataclysm that triggers the greatest adventure of all for Manny, Diego and Sid. In the wake of these upheavals, Sid reunites with his cantankerous Granny, and the herd encounters a ragtag menagerie of seafaring pirates determined to stop them from returning home. The film features the voice talents of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Seann William Scott, Josh Peck, Jennifer Lopez and Queen Latifah. We can’t wait! To get in the Ice Age mood, here are some fun activities you can do before the movie premieres!

1. Watch the Trailer for Ice Age: Continental Drift!

[Email subscribers, please click on the title of this post to view the video online.]

2. Cast your Family and Friends in Ice Age: Continental Drift!

Share this photo on your own Facebook wall and tag your family and friends in the roles that match them best!

3. Link Up!

“Like” Ice Age on Facebook.
Visit the official website to watch the trailer, play games & grab free downloads!
Follow @IceAge on Twitter #IceAge

4. Make an Ice Age Mask!

Download FREE Ice Age character masks of Diego, Sid, and Scrat!

Finally, stay tuned, because I have an awesome Ice Age giveaway coming next week!

Disclaimer: I will receive a Fandango gift card as a thank-you for sharing this information and the upcoming giveaway.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Children’s Books for Summer Reading! (BIG GIVEAWAY!)

It’s very important to keep your children reading over the summer so they won’t lose any of the progress they made in school. My boys get a stamp on their calendar for every twenty minutes they read, and then they get to trade in a certain number of stamps for special treats or privileges. Following are some books that have come across my desk for review that you might want to consider for your child’s summer reading. At the end of the post, use the Rafflecopter form for the chance to win all of these books!

Mike Monkey Has 5 Bananas
By Richard Garrett Dews
Illustrated by Toby Mikle

This book, which teaches counting down from 5 to zero, is unique because it’s actually a two-book set: a regular picture book plus a coloring book. In addition, it can be sung as a song! In the story, Mike Monkey picks 5 ripe bananas from a tree. Each day, he eats one banana and has one less until he’s finally down to none. He’s been checking the trees each day for ripe bananas but hasn’t found any. Fortunately, just as he finishes the last ripe banana, he finds more ripe ones! For those who can read music, there’s sheet music to the song inside or you can download the MP3 file from online music retailers. Learn more at the author’s website:

Moo Kitty Finds a Home
By Valerie Lee Veltre
Illustrated by Liz Leonard

When Moo Kitty’s owner goes to heaven, he is left out with the trash. Fortunately, his guardian angel kitties appear and promise that all will be well. A kind man named George finds Moo Kitty but cannot keep him because his wife is allergic to cats, so he takes Moo Kitty to a shelter. To Moo Kitty’s dismay, everyone wants to adopt cute, little kittens, not an older cat like Moo. Finally, after watching all of his kitty friends get adopted, a nice family decides to adopt Moo Kitty. He loves his new home and family! At the end of the book, the author shares the “Benefits of Adopting an Adult Pet,” along with tips for doing so. Learn more at

The Klampie Mystery
By Luis Rodriguez

A little girl named Samantha learns that she is to spend Christmas with relatives in Australia! Her parents buy her a plush koala, a native animal of Australia, which she names Klampie. After Samantha arrives in Australia, a real koala in a nearby forest gets loaded onto a truck, along with the tree he’s been sleeping in. When the truck stops to get gas, the koala spies Samantha and her family at the gas station. While everyone’s using the restrooms, the real koala climbs into the family’s car and knocks Samantha’s koala under a seat. Then the real koala falls asleep in the car! The real koala likes Samantha so much that he pretends to be her stuffed koala throughout her stay in Australia, sneaking out at night to get some food. Samantha doesn’t figure out that he’s a real koala until they’re on the flight home to San Diego! Fortunately, the real Klampie is adopted by a nearby zoo, and Samantha can visit him any time. Learn more at

The Labyrinth
By Thomas Weck and Peter Weck
Illustrated by Len DiSalvo

This fun book tells the story of Queen Belinda Bean. Everyone loves her except for Mean ol’ Bean, who is jealous because he thinks that he should be king! So, he schemes for the queen to get lost in a giant labyrinth. But L. Joe Bean, one of the queen’s admirers, catches on to Mean ol’ Bean’s plan and is determined to save the queen. A battle ensues between them in the labyrinth. Who will win? Learn more at Suggested activities are included at the end of the book.


One lucky winner will receive all of the books mentioned above! All of them, except for Mike Monkey Has 5 Bananas (which includes the matching coloring book), are hardcover books. To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and will end on Sunday, July 8, 2012 at 11:59 PM EDT.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Super Saturday Giveaway Linky (June 23, 2012)

I can't believe we're already nearing the end of June. Where did the time go? I hope that you are having a great summer! My twins have been enjoying camp and hanging out with friends. And I've been happy about being able to sleep in one hour later each day! (Camp starts an hour later than school.) If you've had a few rainy days like us, I hope you'll spend the time hopping around to all the giveaways in the list below and on my right sidebar. And if you're hosting giveaways, please share them with us in the linky. Then go outside and enjoy the summer!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Book Review and Giveaway: The Happy Student: 5 Steps to Academic Fulfillment and Success, by Daniel Wong

I’ve sent two sons to college now, and we’ve found that it can be a challenging adjustment, even when your children are high-achieving students. Daniel Wong, author of The Happy Student: 5 Steps to Academic Fulfillment and Success, found that academic achievement didn’t automatically lead to happiness in college. It was only when he adopted the five-step program outlined in his book that he was able to find fulfillment, both personally and academically. Please read the Preface from The Happy Student below, and then enter to win a copy of The Happy Student for you or someone you know.


I started writing this book after my third year of college. Initially it felt pretty weird telling my close friends that I was trying to get a book published. Most responses I got went something like “What credentials do you have? Who wants to read something written by someone who hasn’t even graduated from college yet? Maybe you should wait a few years before you try to get the book published.”

Those remarks were discouraging, but I decided (in naïve self-confidence, not bitter defiance) that they were somewhat irrelevant. This is a book written by a student for students. I don’t have a PhD in psychology or education, and neither do I have any experience as a teacher. The five-step program I’ve developed, which will help you become a happy and fulfilled student, wasn’t born out of hours spent analyzing data and running experiments. Rather, it was born out of sixteen years of schooling and relentless questioning as to what the true purpose of education is.

During my career as a student, I achieved a lot of academic success -- although I’m sure that some of you readers out there have achieved much greater success than me. I graduated summa cum laude from Duke University with a double major in mechanical engineering and economics (and a GPA of 3.98 on a 4.0 scale), was inducted into three academic honor societies in college, didn’t get a grade lower than an A- throughout high school and college, and was the salutatorian of my high school (out of a graduating class of 850 students).

Yet these achievements, in and of themselves, didn’t bring me happiness. I accomplished what most students dream of, but for most of my academic career it only led to a greater feeling of insecurity and emptiness. I was acing every test and exam, but I felt like I was failing life. My accomplishments made me wonder, “Surely there’s more to life than getting A’s and trying to get a good job?” I now realize that academics are important, but that they aren’t everything. Good grades really don’t lead to happiness. In fact, being obsessed about grades leads to unhappiness.

The Happy Student is the story of how I discovered real meaning in the pursuit of academic success, and how every student can, too. It’s a story that will resonate in the hearts of every college student and every future-minded high school student.

I’ll admit that happiness itself is a vague concept. Is it a temporary emotion? Or is it something more than that, something you can experience at a deeper level even when you don’t feel particularly cheery? In this book, I’m going to use the latter definition and talk about happiness in relation to your academics. At the same time, I’ve realized that focusing solely on your academics isn’t the key to academic fulfillment. A holistic attitude is vital if you want to become a happy student, and happiness must be investigated in the context of a balanced approach toward education and life. The subject matter of this book reflects an understanding of this reality. Because of the complexity of this reality, I’ll admit that the title, The Happy Student: 5 Steps to Academic Fulfillment and Success, captures the heart of the book but doesn’t fully describe the wide-ranging content.

Interestingly, when I was doing research on what similar books are on the market, I discovered that every book that aims to motivate students academically focuses on extrinsic measures: new classroom management techniques, innovative systems of rewards and punishments, novel approaches to incentivize learning. (Not surprisingly, most books related to education are about helping students get more A’s, regardless of whether they feel fulfilled.)

In other words, most authors assume that students are intrinsically unmotivated -- and that there’s nothing you can do to change that. I don’t believe this to be true. To become intrinsically motivated, students must come to a deep realization of the joy of learning and the beauty of education. They must become purpose-driven rather than performance-driven. They must ask the “why” questions before they ask the “how” questions. They must learn how to climb the ladder more effectively, but only after they’ve made sure the ladder is leaning against the right wall.

I invite you to join me on this journey of asking those all-important “why” questions. This is a challenging process that lays the foundation of your happiness as a student, but it’s not for the fainthearted. Happiness isn’t just something you feel; it’s something you work for. I trust that you’re ready to get down to business.

Publication Information

ISBN-10: 161448127X
ISBN-13: 978-1614481270
Publication date: March 2012
Price: $16.95 US
Publisher: Morgan James Publishing


Three lucky winners will receive a copy of the book, The Happy Student: 5 Steps to Academic Fulfillment and Success, by Daniel Wong. Open to residents of the U.S. only. This giveaway ends at 11:59 PM EDT on Thursday, July 5, 2012.

Celebrate Summer with ALDI!

It’s summertime! And ALDI has everything you need for fun barbecues, Independence Day parties, camping trips and picnics. Best of all, their prices are amazing! You’ll definitely want to check out the Summer Seasonal catalog on their website or in stores to see their limited-time items for summer, which are often up to 50 percent less than other grocery stores!

For example, how about whipping up some s’mores for the kids?! Go to ALDI and pick up:

Choceur Milk Chocolate Bar - $1.49
Benton’s Graham Crackers - $1.49
Baker’s Corner Regular Marshmallows - $0.99

You can heat the marshmallows over the campfire or fire pit, or just use them straight out of the bag like my son did! He loves them!

My son also loves the Baker’s Corner Patriotic Sprinkles, just $2.99 from ALDI. As you can see below, he sprinkled some on his ice cream for a refreshing summer treat!

Here are more summer fun ideas from ALDI:

Thrill of the Grill: Be the neighborhood grilling sensation this summer and turn your backyard into a burger bar. Having a variety of toppings on hand will let everyone build the burger they want and keep your grill hot all summer long. Try these varieties:
So Gouda Burger: Gouda cheese, BBQ sauce, bacon, onion
Six Mile High Burger: Onion rings, bacon, baby bella mushrooms, pepper jack cheese
Hawaiian Turkey Burger: Ground turkey, pineapple, green pepper, pepper jack cheese
Supreme Burger: Bacon, cream cheese, cheddar cheese, havarti cheese, avocado
Greek Burger: Ground chicken, artichokes, hummus, feta cheese
Vacation Burger: Pineapple, green pepper, pepper jack cheese, avocado, garlic bread

Portable Picnic: Before you head off to the park, make sure to bring folding chairs, tables, outdoor games and maybe even a gazebo.

Backyard Oasis: Expand your living space outdoors with comfortable outdoor furniture, a few small tables and groupings of chairs. Add a hammock or reclining chair to relax to the max.

Convenient Camping: Have a backyard “staycation” -- a fun and economical way to introduce your kids to the outdoors while still having access to the comforts of your home.

ALDI has more than 130 summer seasonal items available, such as Roseland Baby Back Ribs, Little Salad Bar Coleslaw and Nature’s Nectar All Natural Raspberry Lemonade. They also carry non-food items such as the Gardenline Rope Hammock Set and the Adventuridge 9’x7’ Dome Tent.

Celebrate summer by heading over to ALDI today. There are 1,200 ALDI stores in 32 states in the U.S.! Click on the banner below to start browsing their Summer Seasonal catalog.