Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Excited about Reading: The Drifter's Mail-Order Bride by Cassie Hayes

Amazon Buy Link
The Cover Story~

He was a drifter, through and through. Could he give up his wanderlust for a mail-order bride he didn’t know was coming? 

Having grown up in the shadow of two beautiful sisters, ‘Scrawny Bonnie’ Blue knows she doesn’t stand a chance at landing a good man in Beckham, Massachusetts. The only way she’ll find a husband is by leaving her family behind to become a mail order bride. But when all three Blue sisters are swept up in a scandal, she has no choice to but to take ‘Gorgeous Gwen’ and ‘Lovely Libby’ with her…kicking and screaming, if she must. 

Bart Dalton would be happy riding the range forever, but his brothers need his help to start a ranch in north Texas. He figures he’ll last a year or so before his feet get itchy again, which his brothers understand. As triplets, they can almost read each others’ minds. Except when his oldest brother ordered three brides for them. It would have been nice to have a little warning about that

When Bart’s late to meet the train carrying the Blue sisters, his brothers get first dibs, leaving Bonnie standing alone and dejected once again. It only gets worse when her ‘intended’ finally shows up and balks at the idea of marrying her. The one thing Bonnie has going for her are her wits, and she puts them to good use by proposing a business arrangement that Bart can’t refuse. 

Will Bart go back to his drifter ways, or is the elusive thing he’d searched for all his life sleeping in the next room? 

Sharing my takeaway~
Wow! Where has Cassie Hayes been all my reading life? Lol. I really enjoyed this story, my first by this author. All the characters were unique and well developed, with interesting interactions and dynamics between the Blue and Dalton families from the first page to the last.

Bonnie yearns to find true love, a man who can see past her beautiful sisters. Bart’s not happy with his brother for ordering him a bride. He plans to move on soon and that’s not fair to “Bonnie Blue.” But if he had to pick a bride, he would pick someone just like Bonnie. Petite, feisty, honest, a gal with an adventurous spirit and who’s capable of taking care of herself. And while initially I never would have matched Bonnie up with Bart, Bonnie completes him. And I liked the curveball. :)

Great chemistry between the main characters moved this book along at a fast pace. I think it took me a couple hours to finish, and when interrupted, I really looked forward to getting back into it. It’s a sweet, clean read, with a couple overarching themes regarding gossip and life choices. I’ll definitely be reading more by Cassie Hayes.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book while it was offered free on Amazon. I was in no way compensated for my fair and unbiased review. 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Excited about Eating by Ernie Hiers

This edition of Excited about Eating takes a road trip to Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen, located on The Island in Pigeon Forge, TN. 

This second story family restaurant has tiered seating so that everyone can take advantage of the floor to ceiling windows overlooking The Island.
Dora here. And conveniently situated over the Paula Deen retail store on the first floor. :) Normally, there's a long wait (with call ahead option), but we visited during Storm Jonas. Not many people ventured out.
This restaurant serves their meals family style with a twist. Instead of having the menu decided by the restaurant and every table gets the same dishes, Paula Deen's Family Kitchen gives each table three main dishes from a choice of seven and four side dishes from a choice of twelve, all you can eat.

Dora here. All you can eat of your choices. And no doggie bags. Bruiser was disappointed. :)

To start, they serve cheddar cheese biscuits and hoe cakes to start the meal, family style. The biscuits were good, soft, and tender. The hoe cakes were served with a sweet potato butter, also great. I could really taste the corn meal ingredient.
Cheddar cheese biscuits, Hoe Cakes, and Sweet Potato Butter. Yum!
Dora here. Oh my yum! Loved, loved, LOVED the biscuits with the sweet potato butter, a fresh twist on apple butter. Not so much the hoecakes. Maybe because they look like pancakes that it's impossible not to compare them. 

For main dishes we chose Best Ever Southern Fried Chicken, Spare Ribs, and Cheesy Meatloaf. For the sides, Creamed Corn, Squash Casserole, Mac and Cheese, and Poppyseed Tossed Salad.
Spare Ribs and Squash Casserole
Of the main dishes, the southern fried chicken was perfectly fried, crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, and full of favor. 

Dora here. Full of flavor because they'd been dredged in hot sauce? Whatever, they were worthy of a second round.

The ribs were tender and covered in a sweet and spicy barbeque sauce that had a unique taste that we later learned was chili power. The cheesy meatloaf was covered in a thick cheese sauce, cut thick and outstanding.
Best Ever Southern Fried Chicken and Cheesy Meatloaf
Dora here. I wasn't a fan of the ribs because of the sauce. But that meatloaf? I could actually enjoy meatloaf prepared this way.

The creamed corn was sweet, and my favorite followed by the squash casserole, which included both summer squash and zucchini with a crumb cracker topping.

From Left: Poppyseed Tossed Salad, Mac and Cheese, and Creamed Corn
Dora here. Totally unusual, but I vote the same for the sides. Of the meats, the fried chicken was my fave.

We rate this restaurant 5 forks our of 5 for a family friendly restaurant serving outstanding food.

Do you enjoy eating "family style" or do you prefer individual choices? What's your favorite "family style" restaurant?

Paula Deen's Family Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Excited about Reading: All the Way to Heaven by Becky Doughty

Amazon Buy Link
The Cover Story~
Sometimes help comes from the most unlikely of hands, and sometimes getting lost is the surest way to be found.

Anica Tomlin, business major, has just learned that the man she's been planning her future around, her Global Finance professor, already has a beautiful wife and family. Ani cashes in her graduation gift to herself a little early--a trip to Tuscany--but from the moment she boards the wrong train in Pisa, her plans for solitude and self-indulgence begin to unravel around her.

When a bicycle accident thrusts Ani into the skilled hands of the dashing Dr. Cosimo Lazzaro, she reluctantly accepts his invitation to recover in his family's country villa, perched on a hilltop surrounded by the Lazzaro olive groves. But it's been a black year for olive growers all over Italy, and generations of tradition are being put to the test like never before.

Ani is swept up in the drama of life in Tuscany, the convergence of old and new, and the passions that drive people to pursue the desires of their hearts. Just as Ani begins to get her feet under her again, an unexpected turn of events leaves her doubting the very existence of happily-ever-after, unless she can learn to trust the desires of her own heart.

Sharing My Takeaway~
First off, I almost didn’t download this book because the cover didn’t appeal to me. But, the bulk of the story takes place in Italy, more specifically on an olive tree farm/villa, so I understand the reason for the cover design. It’s just not a typical romance reader cover. But this isn’t a typical romance, either. :)

The beginning slogged with a bit too much backstory for my taste, but the story kept calling to me, and I refused to put it down. I’m glad I didn’t because I would’ve missed nuggets like this:

“Lucca is full of light and joy. If you look for it with open eye and open heart and open hand, you will find happy here.”

After discovering the ugly truth about her boyfriend/college professor, Anica “Ani” Tomlin escaped to Italy for an early graduation gift.

“Pain, she is a beautiful woman. You must hold her and comfort her until she is ready to go. Then she will leave some of her beauty with you when she goes.”

Doughty rocks descriptions! I felt like I’d wandered into the book and onto the pages myself, plunked right into the landscape of Italy. The pastry shop in the medieval city. The villa overlooking the olive tree farm. Truthfully, I didn’t want to leave. 

Through an unfortunate accident and the theft of her personal documents, Ani’s plans change. Not only her plans, but she changes. Initially, I sympathized with her humiliating discovery and then the chain of events that left her injured and stranded. But she seemed a bit self-centered, and even with her predicament, I found it hard to like her, especially her treatment of Paulo. But when she finally realizes who her heart longs for and recognizes that her new friends are experiencing far more devastating issues, she redeems herself.

All the Way to Heaven is geared for New Adult readers, and I believe that’s accurate. But this Old Adult reader enjoyed it too. :) Sweet and clean, awesome descriptions, a very subtle faith thread, and a romance that finally materialized, (did it ever!) I would definitely read another Doughty book.

How do you feel about covers? Would you choose to buy/read a book based on the cover alone? Do you judge a book by its cover?

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book while it was offered free on Amazon. I was in no way compensated for my fair and unbiased review. 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Excited about Eating by Ernie Hiers

This edition of Excited about Eating takes us to Queen City Q in downtown Charlotte, a short walk from the Time Warner Cable Arena, home of the Charlotte Hornets
Across-the-street view
Dora here. My first Hornets game ever! Too bad they lost that night. :) 
Time Warner Cable Arena
This BBQ joint/sports bar serves all of our BBQ favorites, burgers, tacos and more. During our visit, most visitors were sporting their Hornets gear while filling up before the game. 

We opted to try a few menu items and share: Brunswick stew, hush puppies and honey butter, and Carolina Classic Nachos.
Hush Puppies and Honey Butter Appetizer
I never pass up Brunswick stew when it's on the menu, and I am glad I did not pass on this one. This stew was outstanding, with just the right mix of meat and vegetables and a flavor that kept me going back for more. I think next time we visit I could make my whole meal on this Brunswick stew. 
Brunswick Stew
Dora here. Hmm. I hear you, but I'm quite sure on our next visit, you won't be able to resist the lure of the Que. :)

The Carolina Classic Nachos was loaded with three types of meat (pulled pork, smoked chicken and brisket), lettuce, tomato and chips. 

Carolina Classic Nachos
I have nachos at many places, but these nachos have to rank in the top two or three. What separated these nachos from the others had to be the white queso, with just the right amount of kick and mixed well with the different meat combination. In addition, the serving portion is huge. Both of us ate on it, and still weren't able to finish. 

Dora here. Huge and delish! I love chili nachos, but the chili version tends to be heavy, so I appreciated the lighter variation. The chips didn't taste overly salty while I ate them, but I could've downed a gallon of iced tea after dinner. 

Service was quick and friendly, even jammed with people. 

We rate this restaurant 5 forks out of 5 for a friendly restaurant serving outstanding food.

Any Hornets fans out there? Make some noise!

Queen City Q Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Time for Family

So, now that we're nearing the end of January,  

how are you doing on your resolutions or one-word theme?

I don't make resolutions. Nor do I focus on one words. But, for me, 2016 seems to be all about family so far.

My parents spend the winters in TN, four hours away from us. The rest of the time, they hang out in AK. As in A L A S K A. So, we try to squeeze in as much time as we can with them while they're in the lower 48.

This month they both scheduled cataract surgeries for the same day. One eye at a time, two weeks apart.
It's been fun watching them see things in a new light. Everything's brighter, more colorful, and now, after 50+ years of wearing glasses, all they'll need are readers.
Both pictures were taken after the first eye surgery.
I'd allotted time in my calendar to be there to drive them around and help while they recuperated. They didn't really need any help, though. After surgery and a nap, they were good to go. :)

What I didn't schedule were snow days. Note to self: must remedy that for next year.

Let me ask you. Would you be able to write with all this cuteness in the house? 

Nope. Not me. :)

My word count definitely tanked in January. I'm working on Kissing Santa Nic, a Christmas story that I'll publish independently as Tori Kayson. No contract, no deadlines, so it's all good. But even so...

"There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens..." ~Ecclesiastes 3:1 

Little Man won't be five forever. Before I can blink (practically), he'll be driving age. And my parents will head back to AK soon. 

Apparently, God has designated 2016 as the time for family for me. So, I will adjust my calendar and not fret over my poor word count. Because when I release my schedule to God, He blesses my time beyond measure. 

What season are you in right now?

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Excited about Eating by Ernie Hiers

This edition of Excited about Eating takes us to Cowbell Burger & Whiskey Bar in Uptown Charlotte. 
Cowbell Burger & Whiskey Bar

This modern designed gourmet burger restaurant/bar offers a full array of starters, sandwiches, salads and tacos and a full brunch menu on the weekends. 

Dora here. The interior was well-lit, not gloomy like some restaurants where the bar takes center stage. Also, it was clean and lacked any musty odors from the night before, definitely a plus. And was it my imagination or did a hush come over the room when we walked in? So we might've had a good thirty years on most of the diners here, but service was friendly and efficient and they put us right at ease. :)

We started with Pretzels. These were no ordinary pretzels; they were small barrels packed with flavor, hard on the outside and soft on the inside. They complemented perfectly with the Guinness cheese sauce, which carried just the right amount of kick. These pretzels were great and something that we will be sure to try again on a return visit.
Dora here. I would've sworn the cheese dip was actually some type of Dijon mustard base. Light and mild to taste, but set my throat on fire. Yum!

For my meal, I chose the Dumpling, an Asian pork burger topped with hoisin glaze, slaw, and sriracha aioli on a Kaiser Roll and a side of Sweet Potato Tots. 
The Dumpling with Sweet Potato Tots

This burger definitely had a unique taste with all the various flavors melding together. Makes me want to return soon to try another. If the burger was not great enough, the sweet potato tots took this dish over the top. Outstanding! Now I have never tried sweet potato tots but I can tell you they will be added to my plate whenever they are offered on a menu again. 

Dora here. I really enjoyed the Boogan's Bacon Burger. The patty was huge and meaty, and looked handcrafted, and the bacon marmalade and garlic aioli gave it an added pop. And fresh fruit? How could I resist? Check out that heaping bowl of berries and pineapple. Delish!
Boogan's Bacon Burger
Meaty ~ Boogan's Bacon Burger
Looks yummy, right? It was! Even so, my fork kept wandering over to Ernie's plate, and I snatched more than half of those Sweet Potato Tots. Yowza! Those tots sprinkled with brown sugar and cinnamon rocked! Heaven in my mouth!

We rate this restaurant five forks out of five for a family friendly restaurant serving outstanding food.

Cowbell Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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