Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween

 Boo to you all !!

Today is spent primping and preening, and donning your Halloween costumes.

Then time to go out 'Trick and Treating'

When I was a child, Trick and Treating was nothing like what it is today. I grew up in Llanelli, Wales- Great Britian, where we had the wonderful HARD turnips to carve to use as our Jack-O-Lanterns!! I never had a pumpkin till we moved to the USA! These days pumpkins are easily purchased, back home, making the Halloween carving pumpkins a lot more fun. 

Also when we went trick and treating, we Never got sweets/candy!!!

What, I hear you say...yep I said that right...NO sweets/candy.
We were given money.... woah!!! Yep money, but before you say hey,, loaded at the end of Halloween night...NOPE....

We would be given pennies, loose change and not much of it either. Plus the fact that trick and treating was not participated by many, ESP by the older generation. Even costumes were hard to come by, unless you made them yourself, or use the tried and tested black garbage bags. That has all changed, the big retail stores now have realized that they can, jump on the band wagon and rake in the $$$$. Most Halloweens, I remember.... IT RAINED!!! Nothing different, as Wales it rains a lot as does the whole of Great Britain, that's why it's so lush and green.

Anyways here in the USA, Halloween is a huge day!!

So have fun and be safe tonight as you 
Trick & Treat.

Heres a fun video  - I laughed so hard watching this.... One who watches 'The Walking Dead', many times.. My stomach would be in knots watching the The Walking Dead scares the living daylights out of me.... If it was me going on this Walking Dead Maze... I too would have probably screamed, like a little girl.... Oh wait- I am a girl !!!

 Here is our darling Little Tinkers, Seren & Carys in their Halloween Costumes..... Adorable, unlike flesh eating Walking Zombies!! LOL


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Blackberry, Raspberry Cream Pastry Puffs

Truly Scrumptious
 Mmm... Truly, truly scrumptious. 
This is what you'll be saying/singing
 After eating one of these
 Yummy delights.

Don't think for one second these are hard to make- There Not!

Heres what you'll need to make them

Yep, I cheated and used ready made Puff Pastry Shells

1 packet of Puff Pastry Shells (I used Pepperidge Farms Brand)
1 small punnet of Blackberries
1 small punnet of Raspberries
Birds Custard Powder
3 tablespoons room temp Butter
1/4 cup sugar
200 mls Milk
300 mls Coconut Milk
1/4 cup dried Milk
1/4 cup heavy Cream
2 packets of Fat Free Cream Cheese
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Essence
Crio Bru Coaco Nibs
Melted Chocolate Chips
1/4 cup powdered sugar

I haven't posted how to make the custard on this post but
You can follow  it from this post HERE

Heat your oven to the temp in the box of Puff  Pastry.

Cook for 18- 20 minutes till golden brown, leave to cool

*After making your custard, leave it cool. If you find it too thick, add some cream to thin it out.

Next you take your Blackberries & Raspberries, leaving some for decoration, and puree them.

 Blend you cream cheese

Add your Powdered Sugar

Add your butter & 2 large spoons of your blackberries & raspberries

Taste your cream cheese, I wanted mine more blackberrish :) so I added one more spoonful

Then added vanilla

Once cooled, I took off the tops and removed the middle, be careful not to remove it all as it will break the shells.

Plop a blackberry & raspberry into each puff shell.

Next plop, some of the custard mixture on top of the fruit.

Then on top of the custard, plop on your cream cheese mixture.

Don't discard the tops of the puff shells - use them for your Kiddies :)

Decorate with the melted choc chips and the remaining fruit

Then get ready to say..... Mmm Truly Scrumptious!

Blackberry Raspberry Cream Pastry Puffs

How the puffs look when you cut into one...mmmm!

Now you may say...hey I have leftover cream cheese & fruit puree, you can always make more puffs.

Well heres what happened to mine!


Chalkboard Picture Frame Art

 On the
 Chalkboard Art Train..... 

Are you?

After picking up a bundle of cheap wood picture frames from the local, Vincent De-Paul thrift store, I knew exactly what I would turn them into.

 Remove the back and clean.

Paint your glass from the frame with Chalkboard Paint, I used Walmart $8 a tin. Just remember to leave it dry for a good 4 hrs after the 1st coat, and when you give your frame the 2nd coat, paint it in the opposite direction. Once dried leave for a couple of days to dry out completely.

Once it's totally dry, you are going to condition/ghost it. That just means you have to prep it before you use. 
Take your chalk and rub it one way then the other. 

Then eraser it, well.

Here's a before & after pic for you to see the difference.

Next I sprayed the frame black, using Krylon paint and primer. Leave it dry

Then I used some left over paint, and gave it 2 coats.  Laving it dry in between each coat.

Then using a small amount of  Acadia white paint, using kitchen towel I quickly rubbed on the paint, then rubbed the excess off, leaving my frame to look like this- pic below

Once dried I distressed it using steel wool & fine grain sandpaper

Then put your chalkboard glass back into the frame, and re-use your backing and secure.

Next it was time to do some 

First I wrote out what I wanted, using simple stick of chalk.

Then using Bistro Chalk Markers I went over my outlines.




Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Q & A With Author Rebecca Winters

Rebecca Winters, an American writer and mother of four, lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. When she was 17, she went to boarding school in Lausanne, Switzerland, where she learned to speak French and met girls from all over the world. Upon returning to the U.S., Rebecca developed her love of languages when she earned her B.A. in secondary education, history, French, and Spanish from the University of Utah and did postgraduate work in Arabic.
Because of her studies overseas, Rebecca decided to become a teacher and studied French and history at her alma mater in Utah. For the past 15 years, she's taught junior-high and high-school French and history, and says she got into serious writing almost by accident.
Rebecca recalls her mothers giving back Rebecca the letters she wrote to her mother while in boarding school in.. and told her she wanted Rebecca to turn them into a memories for posterity and from there the seeds were sown, and turning her teenage thoughts and opinions the seeds began to form and the story begin to bud. And those seeds turned into her first published book in 1979. It was called The Loving Season, published under the name Rebecca Burton and naturally takes place in Switzerland & France, two places that have fond memories for Rebecca. No sooner as she had finished that novel, she found herself starting another novel, in-titled By Love Divided, a World War II romance and a few years later Harlequin Books bought her novel Blind to love..and lets say the rest is history or more like HER-story:)
Rebecca continues to write today and her talents have not gone unrecognized. She has won the National Readers' Choice Award, The Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, and has been named Utah Writer of the Year. Right now, Rebecca is working her way toward her 50th novel for Harlequin. She welcomes visitors to her web site.

While I lived in Utah, I had the wonderful pleasure to know and become a friend of Rebecca Winters. When I first came to know Rebecca is a published Author, I knew straight away she would be a perfect resource for me, to pick her brains about writing, she was and still is. Rebecca listened to me spout off my jumbled thoughts and ideas for my book, albeit, I still had huge way to go, she gave me some great advice, she patiently answered my many questions about editors and publishing, etc and gave me her own personal agent contact number! I know, I hear you, I'm a lucky pup right, but I have to get my book finished and edited, then try to get the agent to accept my work LOL. But what Rebecca did for me, was to give me encouragement and she graciously agreed to read my first, three chapters that I had not long written.

I waited with baited breath to hear back from Rebecca, knowing she was a very busy lady herself. For me, time seemed to as slow, just like a slug trying to conquer a mound of dirt. I didn't expect Rebecca to like it, but guess what, she did!! Can you believe my joy! This was my first attempt to write. Rebecca loved the whole premise of my writing and loved the characters I created, just as I do.

That was last year, fast forward to today and I am still working on it as well as two other budding ideas for books, and trying to juggle being a full time mother to two little girls and five grown up children, plus being a grandma! Also being a wife to a full time Master's Student, who also works part time too. I know, I have my hands full, but what has stayed with me, is what Rebecca asked me, “Do you love writing, Helen?”

Of course my answer was, “YES.” Rebecca then told me, If you love to write, then write. To let the ideas that float in my head to appear in words and sentences, and watch your characters and story come to life. And that she, Rebecca, can't wait to read my final draft of my book, and even give me a wonderful recommendation! How cool is that! So I know I have a lot to learn, a long road to tread and learn how to deal with rejections and bad reviews, hopefully squeal in delight at the good reviews.

Rebecca has kindly agreed to do a Q & A for me, and I had fun coming up with the question for her to answer. I hope that her words will help not only me, but you as my readers to follow your dream of writing, or if it's not as of yet, may have planted that tiny seed that will one day grow into an idea, then into a book.

To end I just would like to give a HUGE THANK YOU to REBECCA BURTON/WINTERS. You are a fabulous Lady and I am honored to have you as a friend.

How do you come up with your characters names? And do their names play an
important part to their characters’ personalities? -
                       Perhaps to the reader, the name of a character doesn’t really matter, but to the author it means everything! Not only from the standpoint of personal preference, but a sense of rightness depending on the period of time since the history of the world and locality on the earth.
I’m a romance writer, so I’ll be referring to the hero and heroine throughout this blog.
As you choose your time and location, you zero in to pick the perfect names. Since I write many contemporary stories taking place in Europe, particularly in the Mediterranean area, I want the names to reflect a certain country and if possible, a name that is a place name or an ancient name from that country.
Since I write for Harlequin American, my characters and story take place in the West. I also
write for Harlequin Romance and those mostly take place in Europe.
Let’s start with the heroine first. When I choose a European setting, I would say that 90 percent of my heroines are American who happen to go to Europe for a reason and meet the hero. Because I’m from the West, I tend to use names that are familiar to me (whether in a western or in Europe). Some I’ve used are Kellie, Stefanie, Kit, Olivia, Catherine, Laura, Lindsey. Usually my heroines come from California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, or they’re from the East Coast like New York, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania.
My heroes for Harlequin American usually have western names like Jake, Ross, Buck, Flynn.
My heroes for Harlequin Romance tend to live in France, Italy, Spain, Greece. At the moment I’m finishing up a two book royalty series, one taking place in a fictitious country on the Riviera between Italy and France, and the other on a fictitious island off the coast of Catania, Sicily. In the latter book, this crown prince has been named for an actual Sicilian warrior from history named Valentino. His language is Italian. He asks the heroine to call him Val. His whole name is Valentino Agostino Cellini. All three names have historical significance in that culture. By using those names, this hero comes to life for me and fits him in a way that the author can bead in information about his family tree that provides richness and new information for the reader.

Do you have a book coming out anytime soon? If you do, can you give us a taste of what it's about? -
The book I was referring to taking place off the coast of Sicily will be out next year. So far the working title is ON FIRE FOR THE PRINCE. You already know he’s a prince. One aspect you might find interesting is that he’s a volcanologist. Mount Etna, a smoking volcano, rises ten thousand feet above the city of Catania. In the 1600’s it erupted and killed 29,000 people. Prince Valentino wants to protect the people of his country in case an emergency arises again, and prepares the island against such a disaster by having mock drills for evacuation with gas masks, ect. In this book the heroine happens to be from the other fictional country, but she also speaks Italian. Her name is Carolena. When the prince takes her in the Institute’s helicopter to view Etna from the air, they not only see the activity below, but seismic activity of a different kind erupts between them and the sparks fly. This is an earthshaking moment for Valentino who is engaged to be married to a princess in eight weeks at which time he’ll become king.

Of all the books you have written, which of your characters is your favorite and why? -
They’re all my favorites, but I know what you’re asking. Probably because it was my first novel and closest to my heart after having lived in France and Switzerand, I have to say THE LOVING SEASON. Since that time it has come out on Amazon as SCENT OF BETRAYAL. (Both titles are available there) I fell in love with Maxim Tricornot Ferrier, the legendary French perfumer from Grasse in the South of France. I traveled there, smelled the heavenly jasmine in the air there and drew his character from the people living there with their gorgeous black hair, black eyes and olive skin. The woman I lived with in Paris told me stories about WWII when the Nazis took over her father’s chateau near Grasse. Those stories took root inside me and I knew I had to write a novel about this fabulous man, this genius widower worth millions, who falls madly in love with an American student from Idaho. My neighbor across the street in Salt Lake had a daughter named Megan. I loved her name and gave the heroine that name.

Where and when do you like to write? -
I’ve always written at home in either the dining room or my bedroom. I start early in the morning, my creative time. By late afternoon the juices don’t flow.

How have your personal experiences affected your writing? -
Being alive means having personal experiences every day and somehow those things creep into a novel whether you’re aware of it or not. For me it isn’t something I consciously do, but when I’ve finished a novel and read it, I often can see where an idea for a scene came from. It just naturally happens.

What advice do you have for someone just starting out? -
It’s the same advice I was given when I asked an editor years ago before I ever had anything published. He said, READ READ READ. READ WHAT YOU LOVE, READ WHAT YOU WANT TO WRITE AND WHEN YOU’VE DONE A LOT OF READING, START TO WRITE. It’s the best advice there is. I’ll add a few more things. KNOW THE AUDIENCE YOU ARE WRITING FOR, go to the bookstore and see what is being written in the genre you want to write for. Do your homework.

What was the hardest part of writing for you & which book was the hardest (or easiest) for you to write? -
Those are interesting questions, but to be honest, the only part that’s really hard for me is to receive a revision letter from an editor after the book is finished and wants me to dig deeper into my characters’ emotions. I’ve already written the book, so I have to get back into the mode again and try to feel what I was feeling. That’s hard.

Were you always good at writing? -
If you mean, could I always write a decent sentence, then yes, that came easily. But to create a world and people it is another challenge altogether. If more of my books are sold over the years, it might tell me I’m not failing in that area.

What question would you most like to have someone ask you? -

Interesting. How about, has it been worth it? The answer to that would be an emphatic yes! The fun of getting into someone else’s head, of building a life for them that is uniquely theirs is a challenge I love to do over and over again.

What genre of books do you like to read? -
I love historicals, mysteries, the classics like LES MISERABLES, THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO, but I always love a great romance!

Do you limit yourself to only the genre that you write yourself?-

I have to limit myself to that because I make my living writing women’s romantic fiction. I have other stories in mind that aren’t romances, but I need the time and luxury to write those when I’m not worrying about income.

How do you get started with writing a story (as in, how do you start developing the story, how do you get inspired for it) -

Research is everything! I generally look at a map first. Where do I want my story to take place? When I’ve decided which country, I read about the different provinces, their history, their economy. Something always leaps out at me. Suddenly I can see a hero living there. From that point on I start to build his life. Then I think of the heroine. Where and how would she fit into this scenario? How would they meet? Why? As I ask those questions, the answers come and before long, I’m plotting their emotional journey, their triumphs and failures, their needs, their problems. I like the two to meet at a crossroads in both their lives that throws them for a loop. With the right chemistry a love story emerges.

What advice would you give to people who "run out of creativity" when writing? -
We all have emotional drains on us, sometimes very heavy ones. But in normal circumstances, I would advise writers to discover when they get their best ideas? When are they freshest? Morning, night, middle of the night? Give the writing a rest for a few days, then come back to it. It always comes back, but forcing it doesn’t help. I’ve discovered it’s a business. I get up at the same time every day and start in writing. Habit plays a great part in my ability to get words down on a consistent basis. Sometimes the muse seems to be lacking, but it’s not permanent.

How do you conceive your plot ideas? -
From life. The news. Family events. I wrote an amnesia story because of a family that lived across the street. The man’s wife was a nurse at the hospital. She fell on the steps one day and hit her head. Until she died, she never remembered her former life. It gave me some ideas and became the novel UNDERCOVER BABY.

How long did it take you to publish your first book, after you started trying? -
Six months.

How did you go about getting an agent and publisher? -
I found an agent from the New York City telephone directory. They put my book out and found me my first publishing house, Leisure Books.

Do you use real-life facts based on true stories? -

Yes, at times.

Did you ever think you'd ever become an author? -

Who is your target reader? -

A male or female, young or old, who wants to read a contemporary, clean romance.

What are the major themes of your work? -

Love, honor, integrity, commitment to marriage, love of children.

Are there any recent works that you admire? -
I loved the novel, THE HELP
Who is your favorite Author? -
That’s a toss up between Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas.

What do you think people search for in a book? -
Escape, fun, diversion, excitement, travel, a philosophical voyage, the chance to be someone else.

You are a fabulous Lady and I am honored to have you as a friend.  


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