Monday, 30 March 2020

Our 2020 Lifestyle Reboot…


Being an author has its perks. You can work in whatever clothes (or none) you desire, get up at whatever time you wish, and the travel time from your bedroom to office is practically nil. Unless, of course, you decide to go write at your local coffee shop. However, sitting in a chair for a good portion of the day has its drawbacks. Our bodies were meant to move. Period. So I try to get up every so often, stretch and walk around. I get in a workout early in the morning at least five days a week, and have done so for many years. Yes, some days are harder than others and the recent December holidays added a little more to my frame than I’d like, but it never bothered me much. Until hubby was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes at the end of January.

That was our wake-up call.

Enter our lifestyle reboot. Thankfully, we had already started making healthier food choices just after New Year’s Day, using our son’s wedding in May 2020 as our incentive. Trust me, weddings are great motivators! More vegetables (raw and cooked), fruits, whole grains, protein like skinless-boneless chicken breasts, fish (salmon, sole, cod, and haddock) were our go-tos. I used the Mediterranean Diet as the basis for our meals, and created a two week rotating menu to use as a guide, adding different recipes from health-centered websites and cookbooks to keep our meals from getting…well, boring.

We met with a dietitian the beginning of February who helped us understand the Glycemic Index food guide to make better choices when grocery shopping. She also pressed that the portion size is important when you fill your plate. I always told hubby that size mattered! Wink. Exercise was discussed, and she gave us both a thumbs up for being proactive with our morning workouts. Hubby was prescribed a blood glucose monitor, and faithfully checks his blood sugar every day. We are both well on our way to investing in our health and wellbeing in this new decade, and so far, I’m happy to report that as of writing this post (mid-March), hubby has lost almost twenty pounds. I’ve lost almost five pounds, but in truth, was going for losing more inches, and toning those…um sagging bits, which I’m pleased to say have noticeably shrunk. Woohoo!

I’m including a couple of recipes with images from Sloane Taylor’s Date Night Dinners cookbook, because these meals were part of the menu I created in January, and they were just too darned delicious not to share!

Baked Salmon

Non-stick cooking spray
3 salmon fillets, no more than 1 inch (2.5cm) thick

¼ cup (30g) brown sugar
¼ cup Dijon mustard
½ tbsp. (10ml) white wine
2 tbsp. (30ml) butter
1 tbsp. pine nuts
3 scallions/green onions, sliced, be sure to include much of the green

PREHEAT oven to 425° F (220°C).

SPRAY aluminum foil and lay it on a cookie sheet. Place fish on foil.

COMBINE sugar, mustard, and wine in a small bowl. Whisk until smooth.

SPREAD mixture evenly over salmon to cover it. Bake 15 minutes or until fish flakes with a fork.

MEANWHILE, prepare green onion topping while salmon bakes. Melt butter in small fry pan. Add nuts, they give the dish extra crunch. Stir in onion. Saute until onion is soft and lightly colored. Set aside.

TURN oven to broil. Move fish to 4 inches from heat. Broil 2 minutes or until golden.

ADD a dollop of green onion mixture on top of each salmon steak and serve.

Easy Baked Chicken Breast

Non-stick cooking spray
3 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
½ cup (60g) mayonnaise
5 tsp. (25ml) Italian seasoned dry bread crumbs
½ cup (60g) Parmesan cheese, grated

PREHEAT oven to 425°F (220°C).

SPRAY a baking dish lightly with cooking spray. Rinse chicken and pat dry.

MIX mayo and bread crumbs together in a small bowl. Spread onto both sides of chicken.

LAY chicken in prepared dish. Sprinkle the top of coated chicken with Parmesan cheese.

BAKE for 20 minutes or until the juices run clear when chicken is pierced with a sharp knife.

So, that’s just a sampling of what we’ve been eating since the beginning of 2020. What recipe appeals to you? Or would you rather indulge in a vegetarian dish? What have you done to reboot your health in this new decade? Would love to read your comments. Cheers, and thank you for reading my blog.

Monday, 23 March 2020

Book Tour: The Demons of Wall Street by Laurence Raphael Brothers...


Welcome to the 1-Week Virtual Book Tour for The Demons of Wall Street (Nora Simeon Investigations #1), an Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Novella by Laurence Raphael Brothers.


About the Book:

Nora Simeon hates demons.

But as an investigator for the secretive Commission, the organization that regulates financial sorcery in New York City, she deals with the creatures a lot more than she'd like. Her latest case has her on the track of a rogue demon, escaped from magical bondage as an analyst for a leading investment bank.

On the demon's trail, Nora crosses paths with a beautiful young man named Eyre. He's too pretty and complaisant to be human, and too kind to be a demon in human form, but what else could he be? Together they become embroiled in the secret corruption at the heart of the financial industry. But before Nora can untangle a twisted skein of sorcerous murder and intrigue, she has to untangle her feelings for Eyre. And before she can do that, she has to find out who and what he really is.

Review for Demons of Wall Street by Laurence Raphael Brothers…

4 Stars for an entertaining mash that can only be described as, “Supernatural meets Wall Street meets Fight Club!”

Demons of Wall Street is a tongue-in-cheek detective romp with a paranormal spin, and one of my newest guilty pleasures. Kudos to Laurence Raphael Brothers who, with his imagination and literary spark in the mix, has created a cast of fresh characters and world so intriguing and fantastical, I can hardly wait for this novella’s sequel to be released.

Hard-ass, no-nonsense detective Nora Simeon is under retainer for the ‘Commission’, a big-brother-like organization who keeps a handle on demons coming into the world to be used as slaves. When a demon from a top financial company escapes, it’s up to Simeon, who possesses minimal magic abilities and detests demons of any kind, to capture and contain the creature before the ‘mundanes’ (ordinary humans) discover its existence. Forced to pair with Eyre, a magical being who Nora finds striking and mysterious, they must confront the real threat behind who is kidnapping the demon-slaves, even if it reveals the dirty truth about the Commission.  

Publisher Website:  


Purchase Links:

Amazon e-book
Amazon paperback

Please visit the tour hosts and share their post and/or leave a comment!


Meet the Author:



Laurence Raphael Brothers is a writer and a technologist. He has published over 25 short stories in such magazines as Nature, the New Haven Review, PodCastle, and Galaxy's Edge. His WWI-era historical fantasy novel Twilight Patrol was just released by Alban Lake. For more of his stories, visit https://laurencebrothers.com/bibliography, or follow him on twitter: @lbrothers.

Enter the Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Thursday, 19 March 2020

Cover Reveal: The Haunting Near Battlefield Ridge, A Nikki Landry Swamp Legend by Rita Monette...


Welcome to the Cover Reveal for The Haunting Near Battlefield Ridge!!

About the Book:

“I never believed in ghosts… until I met Oggie.”

Nikki Landry and her friends discover strange white smudges in photos Patti’s grandmother had snapped at an old gravesite. No one can explain what they are.

Did Nikki’s little brother mark them up with a piece of chalk? Did a low-lying fog move in just as she snapped the photos? Could it be just a smear on the camera lens?

Spikes insists it’s a ghost.

Then Mrs. LeBlanc remembers a legend her grandfather told her of a spirit that haunts the small family cemetery located near an old Civil War battle site. 

Will Nikki and her legend busting gang discover it’s just an old tale, or does the ghost really exist? If so, why is he there? What does he want?

Join Nikki and her friends as they go searching for the answers…and the truth behind the Haunting near Battlefield Ridge.

Book Information:

Publisher: Mirror World Publishing; 1 edition
Publisher Website: Mirror World Publishing
Publication Date: April 17, 2020
ASIN: B085MMZLFF

The Cover:


Pre-Order Your Copy:


Meet the Author:

Behind Every Legend Lies the Truth!


Rita Monette was born and raised in Southwest Louisiana. After retiring from her “real” job as an administrative assistant for the State of Michigan, Rita began doing what she always wanted to do…write and draw. Her stories are set in the beautiful, yet mysterious, bayous and swamps of her home state. The Haunting Near Battlefield Ridge is the fifth book in her Nikki Landry Swamp Legend series. Rita now lives with her husband, four lap dogs, and one lap cat, in the mountains of Tennessee.

Social Media Links:

Website

Facebook

Amazon

Goodreads

Blog

Monday, 16 March 2020

The Perfect Comfort Food and YA Mystery Read for March Break...

The perfect comfort food to serve your family or friends in late fall, the dead of winter or early spring, these melt-in-your-mouth chops are the most tender—dare I say succulent pork chops—you’ve ever tasted. Food seems to be the source of comfort in all family matters, and I’ve found that meals bring us together to celebrate, cry or support each other in so many ways. Call me sentimental, but there’s something about those family chats at the dinner table after a long day or weekly family get-togethers on Sunday that you’ll hold in your heart for years to come.

Succulent Sour Cream Pork Chops

6 pork chops
Salt and pepper to taste
Garlic powder to taste
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. (15ml) olive oil
1 large onion, sliced ¼ inch thick
2 cubes chicken bouillon
2 cups boiling water
2 tbsp. (30ml) flour
1 8 oz. (250 g) container sour cream

SEASON pork with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Dredge in flour.

HEAT a skillet over medium heat. Add oil. When the oil shimmers lightly brown chops.

PLACE chops in slow cooker, and top with onion slices. Dissolve bouillon in boiling water and pour over chops. Cover, and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours.

PREHEAT oven to 200° F (95° C).

AFTER the chops have cooked, transfer them to the oven to keep war. Be careful, the chops are so tender they will fall apart.

IN a small bowl, blend flour with sour cream. Stir into meat juices in slow cooker. Turn cooker to HIGH for 15 to 30 minutes, or until sauce is slightly thickened.

SPOON sauce on pork chops, and serve over rice or noodles.

With a prep time of 15 minutes and cook time of 8 ½ hours, there’s plenty of time to get some weekend reading done while you wait for your guests to arrive. May I suggest a visit to Fairy Falls, or if you’re feeling really adventurous, a trip back in time with The Last Timekeepers? Whichever you choose, I guarantee either series will take you on a journey far away from dirty dishes and messy pots.

Here's a glimpse into one of the books from Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls, my teen psychic mystery series.

The only witness left to testify against an unsolved crime in Fairy Falls isn’t a person…

City born and bred, Hart Stewart possesses the gift of psychometry—the psychic ability to discover facts about an event or person by touching inanimate objects associated with them. Since his mother’s death, seventeen-year-old Hart has endured homelessness, and has learned ways to keep his illiteracy under wraps. He eventually learns of a great-aunt living in Fairy Falls, and decides to leave the only life he’s ever known for an uncertain future.

Diana MacGregor lives in Fairy Falls. Her mother was a victim of a senseless murder. Only Diana’s unanswered questions and her grief keeps her going, until Hart finds her mother’s lost ring and becomes a witness to her murder.

Through Hart’s psychic power, Diana gains hope for justice. Their investigation leads them into the corrupt world threatening Fairy Falls. To secure the town’s future, Hart and Diana must join forces to uncover the shocking truth, or they risk losing the true essence of Fairy Falls forever.

Monday, 9 March 2020

The Perfect Fish Recipe for Lent by Sloane Taylor...


You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the enticing aroma from this easy recipe and the taste is superb. Studs and I have served this menu to skeptical guests and they fell in love with it.

Cook pasta prior to starting fish. Re-warm by running hot water over the just noodles before serving.


Serve with Whole Grain Spaghetti, Tossed Salad, Italian Bread, 
and White Wine – Pinot Grigio





TANTALIZING COD

1 tbsp. olive oil
½ med. onion, sliced thin
2 garlic cloves, chopped fine
½ cup dry white wine
5 lg. Roma tomatoes, chopped
½ cup black olives, sliced
2 tbsp. parsley, chopped or 1 tbsp. dried
1 tbsp. capers, drained and chopped
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
4 cod fillets, about 6 oz. each
½ tbsp. fresh basil, chopped or 1 tsp. dried

Heat a large skillet on medium-high. Add oil. Heat until it shimmers. Add onion, stir until translucent and lightly browned. Stir in garlic, cook 30 seconds. Add wine, cook 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes with the juice, olives, parsley, capers and red pepper. Heat to boiling.

Lay cod fillets over tomato mixture. Lower heat to medium. Cover skillet and cook until cod turns opaque throughout and flakes, about 9 minutes.

Sprinkle basil across the top.

Serve over whole grain spaghetti. Don’t prepare extra. Leftovers have a stale taste and tend to be tough.

May you enjoy all the days of your life filled with good friends, laughter, and seated around a well-laden table! 

~ Sloane

Sloane Taylor is an Award-Winning author with a second passion in her life. She is an avid cook and posts new recipes on her blog every Wednesday. The recipes are user friendly, meaning easy. Learn more about Taylor's cookbooks, Date Night Dinners, Romantic Meals to Dine al Fresco, and Recipes to Create Holidays Extraordinaire on Amazon.

Excerpts from her romance books and free reads can be found on her website, blog, and her Amazon Author Page. Connect with Taylor on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, 2 March 2020

Finding My Superpower by Author Carol Browne...

The day I discovered my superpower is a memory undimmed by time. It was a life-changing event and I doubt I will ever forget it. Some of the details are sketchy, though, like how old I was. I know I was in my first year of primary school so I must have been about seven.

Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash
I can still see the classroom, the table where I was sitting when it happened, and the chalk-smeared blackboard, but apart from the teacher being female, I don’t recall much about her. I regret that because I have never been able to thank this woman for making me aware of a talent I didn’t know I had. She set me on a path I am still following almost sixty years later.

It all started when I wrote a poem. Where did I get the idea from to do that? It’s a mystery, and it seems strange to me now that I even knew what a poem was, or that it should have meter and rhyme. I also wrote it in verses of four lines each. The subject was a crocus, something I must have seen and wondered at, but again I’ve no idea why this little plant should have inspired me to put pen to paper the way I did, nor why I chose to present the poem to my teacher. Having composed this no doubt unsophisticated piece of doggerel, that was that as far as I was concerned. I didn’t expect what was to follow.

I was at my table, scribbling away with one of those thick blue biros they used to hand out, when the teacher announced that Carol Browne had written a wonderful poem and it was going on the wall so everyone could see it. In fact, she advised my classmates to look at it if they wanted to know how to write a poem. She came over to me and congratulated me on my work and I was astonished, delighted and taken aback by this praise and recognition. As a shy and lonely child with physical defects only time would cure, I found myself suddenly elevated to a status I could not have aspired to in my wildest dreams. I never received validation for anything before but now I was worthy because of a talent not everyone else possessed. I could manipulate words. I could bend them to my will. I could do this because I was a wordsmith. This was my gift, my specialty. This was my superpower.

From that moment on I was a writer.

Here's a brief intro to my latest fantasy released through dilliebooks. I hope you like it.


Elgiva, a young elf banished from Elvendom, must seek shelter among the Saxons as her only hope of surviving the coming winter.

Godwin, a Briton enslaved by the Saxons, is a man ignorant of his own inheritance and the secret of power he possesses.

A mysterious enemy, who will stop at nothing to wield absolute power over Elvendom, is about to make his move.

When destiny throws Elgiva and Godwin together, they embark upon the quest for the legendary Lorestone, the only thing that can save Elvendom from the evil that threatens to destroy it.

There is help to be found along the way from a petulant pony and a timid elf boy but, as the strength of their adversary grows, can Elgiva’s friends help her to find the Lorestone before it falls into the wrong hands?


Born in Stafford in the UK, Carol Browne was raised in Crewe, Cheshire, which she thinks of as her home town. Interested in reading and writing at an early age, Carol pursued her passions at Nottingham University and was awarded an honours degree in English Language and Literature. Now living and working in the Cambridgeshire countryside, Carol usually writes fiction but has also taken a plunge into non-fiction with Being Krystyna. This story of a Holocaust survivor has been well received.

Stay connected with Carol on her website and blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

Monday, 24 February 2020

The 4 Types of Novel Writers. Which One Resonates With You...

Recently, I viewed a YouTube video done by Ellen Brock whom I personally knew as an editor when she worked for my former publisher. She now offers strategies and techniques geared to help writers with their particular writing process, and hopefully assist them in writing better books. In this video, she talks about the four types of novel writers, and frankly, I was intrigued. Now, I’m sure you’ve heard of writers prone to being either Pantsers or Plotters, or a hybrid of both, but Ellen offers a different take which I wanted to share with you on my blog. If you’ve got about twenty minutes of time to invest, I urge you to watch Ellen’s video below to find out what type of writer you resonate with. I really believe you’ll find this fascinating and worth the watch, so please enjoy!

BTW—I’m an Intuitive Plotter. Go figure. This makes perfect sense to me now! LOL! Hope this video helps you to plan and write your next blockbuster! So, what type of writer did you figure out you are? Would love to read your comments. Cheers, and thank you for reading my blog.

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Book Tour: The Coffee Monster and the Land of Coffee by Nate Friedman...


About Coffee Monster and the Land of Coffee:

The Coffee Monster’s family has a secret. 

The Coffee Monster has been a part of a great family for as long as he can remember. There’s mom and dad, Jenna and James. Everything in the Coffee Monster’s life is perfect until he learns of the place he came from, The Land of Coffee, and is given the chance to visit. There, he’ll learn all about his heritage and the extended family he never knew he had. 

In this sequel to Nate Friedman’s debut children’s book, our lovable Coffee Monster is confronted with the truth of his past where he learns the true meaning of family through a journey to the land of his birth.


Book Details:

Series: The Coffee Monster (Book 2)
Paperback: 40 pages
Publisher: Mirror World Publishing 
Publish Date: February 17, 2020
ISBN-10: 1987976606
ISBN-13: 978-1987976601

Purchase Links:


Question and Answer with Author Nate Friedman

Q-A little birdy told us you have a new book coming out! Tell us about “Coffee Monster and the Land of Coffee” and what prompted you to write it.

A-I am super excited to have “Coffee Monster and the Land of Coffee” finally coming out on February 17th! It’s crazy to think about the amount of work that has went into this book since I first had the idea several years back. As some of you may know, I launched the original tale of “The Coffee Monster” in 2015, as my first book. This book got some great reception and it felt like the character just had more to say and more adventures to take us on. As a writer, these characters never leave you and almost scream at you write more! Especially Coffee Monsters that can be extremely energetic, there’s always a story to tell when this ball of energy is around causing mischief. I had a lot of children and adults ask me where Coffee Monster comes from and it seemed he needed this book to find out himself 😊 This tale couldn’t have been brought to life any better than with the amazing illustrator Saba Bushnaq who really outdid herself and made the tale even more fun and colourful this time around. This one is more of an origin story where we go on an adventure to a brand-new place!

Q- How is writing a sequel different than writing the original and were you ever worried that this installment of “The Coffee Monster” wouldn’t be as magical?

A-Writing a sequel can be pretty tricky business. As an author it’s easy to get set in how things should be and not want to change your work once it’s already been published. This adds an extra layer to thinking about a new concept while needing to fit it into the same mold as the first. With the Coffee Monster, a lot of the work was already done in terms of imagining the character and the world in which it takes place. Instead of being confined to the existing cast of characters, I made it a challenge to create some new characters, maybe even a fan favourite (*hint hint* Mocha Double Frap). In terms of the magic, I think there’s always some out there to play with. That’s the reason why writers feel such inspiration when they open up. I find the same in movies: where it becomes important to regard each piece of work as its own experience. The themes and moral of this story are much different, including adventure and heritage along with the regular family and friendship. The decision to add a song was also super fun and important to giving this story its own experience. At the same time though, like a well-timed joke, you want to keep the same sentiment and fun that you know works and is the reason someone would pick the book up in the first place. You also do not want to assume someone has read the first installment, which adds an extra challenge but becomes fun to write, like a nice puzzle. The main thing becomes trusting your own intuition and sticking to what you find to be fun as the writer and the reader!

Q- A lot of people reading this may have their own stories they want to share with the world. How did you go about this, and do you have any tips or tricks?

A-Share, share, share, my goodness share! Share until people won’t listen to you anymore, and then share some more. I recently read an article about filmmaker Quentin Tarantino that explained he would continually pitch his ideas to test them on people and make sure he would continually hold interest. I like this idea, along with the Walt Disney approach to work ethic that explains a work is never done and can be continually improved. Write something that drives you so much you can’t wait to get up in the morning and bring it into the world. Coffee Monster makes me smile and I have fun with it. I think that regardless of what that passion project is for you, when you talk about it your voice will speed up, that twinkle will start to appear in your eyes and time will stand still. Don’t let go of these moments, let them guide you. I can’t tell you exactly who to approach or how exactly your work will find a home but it all begins and ends with the product, once that is locked in 1000% stop at nothing to get it out there and take hints from people by assuming that they all want to help you and give you honest feedback. You have an extreme luxury right now that you don’t even know you have: time. This means you can keep working and it won’t matter how long it takes, can be your 1000th draft that makes it out there, and they’ll call you a genius because they will be reading it for the first time. Keep creating and do your best to fall in love with the process. Everyone is potentially someone you can work with and surround yourself by like-minded people. Find your time of day and stay as consistent as possible. The world needs your point of view 😊

Q- Anything else to add? And where can we find you online?

A-I’ll keep this one short haha. I just want to add that I hope you love my brand-new book and reading this article inspires you to go out and be creative today in some way! Do something that scares you or just go read your favourite book and be swept away! You can always visit my website for upcoming appearances and links at www.natetfriedman.com. There is also a section there you can e-mail me directly with questions and/or feedback. I always love hearing from you. I am also on twitter: @bowtiecomedy1 and on facebook at facebook.com/natefriedmanauthor Hope you have an amazing rest of your day!



Re-launch of The Coffee Monster, Book 1

About the Book:

There's a little 'Coffee Monster' in all of us...

In a pleasant little town lives a normal family with a mom, a dad and two beautiful children. There is just one thing that makes this family different from most other families; they don't have a dog, a cat, or pets of any kind. Instead, they have a Coffee Monster! Follow Jenna and James as they try to deal with the Coffee Monster's antics and help him overcome a personal struggle. Through this simple, but comedic tale, learn about the value of telling the truth, taking care of oneself and each other, and how to work-through everyday issues. Most of all, you just might learn that there's a little 'Coffee Monster' in all of us...


Book Details:

Series: The Coffee Monster (Book 1)
Paperback: 36 pages
Publisher: Mirror World Publishing 
Publish Date: July 1, 2015
ISBN-10: 0994749015
ISBN-13: 978-0994749017

Purchase Links:


Follow the Book Tour:


Meet the Author:

I want to change the world, one smile at a time!

A writer from Windsor, Ontario, Canada, Nate graduated from the Kinesiology program at the University of Windsor. His education has fuelled a keen interest in how people think and what drives them to be their best. Comedy is his first love and his desire to be creative has directed him towards writing children’s literature. He enjoys reading to his nephews, two of his biggest fans.

Connect with Nate:

Facebook

Publisher Website:

Mirror World Publishing



Monday, 17 February 2020

Cover Reveal: The Demons of Wall Street by Laurence Raphael Brothers...


Today is the cover reveal for The Demons of Wall Street (Nora Simeon Investigations #1) by Laurence Raphael Brothers an upcoming Urban Fantasy, Paranormal novella.

About the Book:

Nora Simeon hates demons.

But as an investigator for the secretive Commission, the organization that regulates financial sorcery in New York City, she deals with the creatures a lot more than she'd like. Her latest case has her on the track of a rogue demon, escaped from magical bondage as an analyst for a leading investment bank.

On the demon's trail, Nora crosses paths with a beautiful young man named Eyre. He's too pretty and complaisant to be human, and too kind to be a demon in human form, but what else could he be? Together they become embroiled in the secret corruption at the heart of the financial industry. But before Nora can untangle a twisted skein of sorcerous murder and intrigue, she has to untangle her feelings for Eyre. And before she can do that, she has to find out who and what he really is.

Release Date is March 17


Publisher Website: 


Pre-Order Purchase Links:



Amazon e-book

Amazon paperback

Please visit the tour hosts and share their post and/or leave a comment!


Meet the Author:


Laurence Raphael Brothers is a writer and a technologist. He has published over 25 short stories in such magazines as Nature, the New Haven Review, PodCastle, and Galaxy's Edge. His WWI-era historical fantasy novel Twilight Patrol was just released by Alban Lake. For more of his stories, visit https://laurencebrothers.com/bibliography, or follow him on twitter: @lbrothers.

Monday, 10 February 2020

Guest Post: What Do You Do with the Mad You Feel? by Elliott Baker...


A couple of days ago, Sally and I had the pleasure of watching A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood written by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster and directed by Marielle Heller. In the movie, Tom Hanks portrays Mister Rogers. I am incapable of writing spoilers so I can’t speak about the plot of the film. Go see it. It’s different from what you think. Sally and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Fortunately, all of my generation had the privilege of watching “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” if not through our own child eyes, then through those of our children.

The first broadcast of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” took place on the National Educational Television network on February 19, 1968. I was already a teenager, and I remember thinking that the pace of the show was slow. I also remember thinking, “That guy can’t be for real.” Why did I think that, but perhaps more importantly, what caused me to change my mind? In 1980 I saw Mister Rogers through my son’s eyes and that image has stayed with me all my life.

“Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” was broadcast from February 19, 1968 to February 20, 1976, and again from August 20, 1979 to August 31, 2001. It was almost like he came back on the air for our three children. Our eldest was born in 1978. Two out of our three children watched the program and Sally and I loved the half hour we could use to do life other than children. Our daughter didn’t like The Neighborhood because she felt that Mister Rogers’ mother didn’t dress him properly if he had to change clothes every time he entered. Still, when I was home, the show would occasionally catch me and I’d sit with whichever little ones were glued to the set. My memory of those days was that Sally and I were both at a dead run juggling whatever momentous tasks that needed to be done. Why did I, a young adult, stop and watch Fred Rogers?

Most everything is new to the 2 to 5-year-olds which were the preschool ages Fred Rogers’ series was aimed at, even though it was labelled by PBS as “appropriate for all ages.” It might be said that children are unsophisticated about their choices of what to give their attention to. I don’t think that’s true, mainly because their choices followed a pattern and they often requested Mister Rogers. What they didn’t have was an unconscious experiential barrier to love, either giving or receiving. My first response to the show was “That guy can’t be real. He’s acting in order to catch an audience and maintain the success of the show in order to bring him more fame and money.” When I saw Mister Rogers through the eyes of my children and through their expressions, (I watched them watch him.) I saw the truth. Without the colors we add in through the bumps and mistakes of life, there’s just what is in front of us and we know it for what it is. The man in that sweater was exactly as my children saw him, a gentle soul teaching a child the benefits of kindness to oneself and others.

As children we lust after the power of the adults in our lives. We are hurt and the hurts scab over, but remain with us informing our lives and our search for acceptance. We learn what to do with mad from our heroes whether they’re heroic or not, whether we love them or hate them. Anger comes from fear and only from fear. We are never angry about the things we love. Anger is a signpost of an injury along the way. Acceptance leads to forgiveness which is the only true healing we can exchange.

That was Fred Rogers’ gift to us. His ability to surmount appearances and portray genuine acceptance. I wonder that the ability to accept others wasn’t the first and most powerful tool that allowed us to survive in a dangerous world. The only reason homo sapiens managed to survive a vicious primitive environment was their aggregation, not their aggression. Individually, tools notwithstanding, we were helpless. Together we were more powerful than the carnivorous fauna that surrounded us, more tenacious than the environmental disasters that beset us. Being accepted by the group implied the opportunity for survival, rejection was a guarantee of death. Those early motivations are still resident within each of us like old outdated programming, and in fear, we lash out at any attempt to challenge the group that has deigned to accept us. No matter the underlying motivation of the group originator. Even if the group’s destination is eventual destruction, we can’t seem to disobey that prime directive. Belong or die.

In his gentleness, Mister Rogers taught power, real power. There is such power in forgiveness and compassion. Forgiveness causes structural change, long lasting change whereas anger and its effects are always temporary. If compassion is forgiveness for the self you see in others, doesn’t its exercise release us from our own fears at the same time? Doesn’t it make our load lighter and the road easier to navigate? We all suffer from the belief that we are powerless no matter how many missiles we command. To an adolescent, adults have power in that they can compel behavior using the threat of bodily or psychological injury. And, as adolescents, we lust after that power. We use all kinds of behaviors to compel others to accept us. That strategy which often appears to work in the short term, always fails in the end because while we may have destroyed the self we see in others, that short lived victory has not given us the ability to accept ourselves. In fact, it reinforces our nonacceptance and without that self-acceptance, the world remains in ego colors of black and white, good and bad.

Fred Rogers was a shining light dispelling the darkness of that youthful inability. He wasn’t a saint. He was from our neighborhood. That we’re having difficulty accepting ourselves now does not mean that we can never do so. We do not live in a black and white world no matter how we choose to see it. Yet we all participate in thought conventions that use that limiting paradigm. Good or bad. My father-in-law, a man very much in the mold of Fred Rogers once told me a story about a young man in Russia at the turn of the century. I’ll shorten the story, but you’ll see the thread.

This is a universal story and my father-in-law set it on a Russian farm. One day, the farmer’s horse ran away. The neighbors commiserated with him saying, “Such bad luck.” “Who knows,” replied the farmer. The next day, the horse returned bringing three other wild horses with it. The neighbors came over. “Such good luck,” they said. “Who knows,” replied the farmer. The next day, while trying to rope one of the wild horses, the farmer’s son was kicked and his leg broken. “Such bad luck,” said the neighbors. “Who knows,” replied the farmer. The Russian army heard of the horses and came to collect them. While there they asked to see the farmer’s son who they intended to recruit. They needed more fodder for the front lines.

A world of color is so much more exciting. The complexity of our world is frightening because our personal knowable resources are shrinking against the total knowledge available. It is this fact that threatens our survival more than any carnivorous fauna could. It is also the reason why it’s imperative that we learn to accept each other in larger groups than our current tribes. No matter how it may look, the only way to accomplish this is one at a time until eventually the one becomes all.

There are many Mister Rogers among us. They don’t speak loudly. We have to quiet our egos and listen to hear them, but they all tell us the same message. What to do with the mad you feel. Thank you, Mister Rogers, for reminding me I can do better.

Award winning, international playwright Elliott B. Baker grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. With four musicals and one play published and done throughout the United States, New Zealand, Portugal, England, and Canada, Elliott is pleased to turn his skill to writing action adventure novels.

A member of the Authors Guild and the Dramatists Guild, Elliott lives in New Hampshire with his beautiful wife Sally Ann.

Learn more about Elliot Baker on his website. Stay connected on Twitter and Facebook. Like Elliott's Author Page on Facebook to learn all his latest news.

Monday, 3 February 2020

Escape to the Past with Sharon Ledwith's Honey Bun Cake Recipe and her Young Adult Book Series...

Some recipes take me back to a time when life was simpler—a.k.a. living with my parents, eating their food, and not having to any pay bills or a mortgage. As the name suggests, this cake tastes exactly like the honey bun I used to buy during my high school days. Trust me, just one mouthful of this sugary bliss propels you back to those days where all your happy memories and good times of the past, still exist.

A warning to the wise: it’s quite a sweet cake and not for those who are watching their waistlines, so wait until after you’ve blown your New Year’s Resolutions to try this delish dish. I’ve found this is the perfect cake to serve during holidays, celebrations, or perhaps as an indulgent dessert at your monthly book club.

Heavenly Honey Bun Cake

1 package of yellow cake mix (432 g or 18.25 ounce)
¾ cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 (250 g or 8 ounce) container of sour cream
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325° F (165° C).

In a large mixing bowl, combine cake mix, oil, eggs, and sour cream. Stir by hand approximately 50 strokes, or until most large lumps are gone. Pour half of the batter into an ungreased 9 x 13-inch glass baking dish. Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon, sprinkle over the batter.

Spoon the remaining batter into the cake pan. Be sure to cover the brown sugar and cinnamon well. Twirl the cake with a butter knife or icing knife until it looks like a honey bun or whatever design you want to make.

Bake 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Frosting

2 cups confectioners’ sugar
4 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, milk, and vanilla extract until smooth. Spread across the cake while fairly hot. Serve warm.

Tastes wonderful if served with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.

While you’re waiting for the cake to bake, take a seat in your favorite comfy chair and crack open one of my books. May I suggest a nostalgic visit to Fairy Falls, or if you’re feeling really adventurous, a trip back in time with The Last Timekeepers? Whichever you choose, I guarantee either series will take you on a journey far away from thoughts of paying bills or putting in a load of laundry.

Here's a glimpse into one of the books from Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls, my teen psychic mystery series.

The only witness left to testify against an unsolved crime in Fairy Falls isn’t a person…

City born and bred, Hart Stewart possesses the gift of psychometry—the psychic ability to discover facts about an event or person by touching inanimate objects associated with them. Since his mother’s death, seventeen-year-old Hart has endured homelessness, and has learned ways to keep his illiteracy under wraps. He eventually learns of a great-aunt living in Fairy Falls, and decides to leave the only life he’s ever known for an uncertain future.

Diana MacGregor lives in Fairy Falls. Her mother was a victim of a senseless murder. Only Diana’s unanswered questions and her grief keeps her going, until Hart finds her mother’s lost ring and becomes a witness to her murder. Through Hart’s psychic power, Diana gains hope for justice.

Their investigation leads them into the corrupt world threatening Fairy Falls. To secure the town’s future, Hart and Diana must join forces to uncover the shocking truth, or they risk losing the true essence of Fairy Falls forever.

The Last Timekeepers Time Travel Adventure Series:

The Last Timekeepers and the Dark Secret, Book #2 Buy Links:
The Last Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantis, Book #1 Buy Links:
Legend of the Timekeepers, prequel Buy Links:

Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls Teen Psychic Mystery Series:
Lost and Found, Book One Buy Links:
Blackflies and Blueberries, Book Two Buy Links: