Saturday, March 28, 2015

Excited about Eating by Ernie Hiers

For today's review we headed south of Charlotte to the Elizabeth neighborhood. This neighborhood was named after Elizabeth College, a small Lutheran women’s college founded in 1897 and is now the site of Presbyterian Hospital. Bang Bang Burgers is tucked into the back corner of the Twin Oaks Shopping Center, our second visit here. Dora here. So many cool looking restaurants in this area to tempt us along the way! 
Bang Bang Burgers
Service was speedy. The Fried Pickles appetizer appeared within minutes. The fried pickles were worth the return visit, a combination between a dill and sweet pickle served with a homemade ranch dipping sauce, cut into spears with heavy batter. They had to be one of the best fried pickles that I have ever tried. Dora here, The Best. Fried. Pickle. Ever. Sweet and sour warred on my tongue. Why don't more places fry sweet pickles? 
Fried Pickles

My Bang Bang Burger was served with American cheese, lettuce, tomato and their famous Bangburger Sauce while the onion rings were also served with the Bangburger sauce for dipping. The burger was moist, ample size, and charred well. The onion rings were good but I preferred the Maple dipping sauce that came with my wife’s sweet potatoes fries.

Dora’s Cowboy Burger was served with sharp cheddar, bacon, and a smoky BBQ sauce while the sweet potatoes fries came with the lick-your-fingers-delicious maple dipping sauce. Dora here. Burgers are my go-to, and this burger was OK, not great. It was missing drip-down-your-chin juiciness. Presentation was beautiful, and the fries were sweet and moist. They would have been great on their own, but the maple dipping sauce rocketed them to awesome. 
Cowboy Burger

I would rate this establishment 4 forks out of 5 for a family friendly restaurant serving great food.

Dora here. If you like after lunch coffee and a sweet, walk around the corner to Sunflour Baking Company. Yum! I'm so thankful for my foodie husband!
Chocolate Coconut Macaroon

Do you have a favorite burger spot?
Bang Bang Burgers on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

YA Readers! Meet Cindy K. Green, Writer of ANDREA and the 5-DAY CHALLENGE

Purchase Link
Cindy, how did you come up with the title?

Andrea & the Five Day Challenge originally started as a short story I’d titled Homecoming Madness. It didn't take long for me to realize that this was going to be longer than a short story. In fact, before I knew it I had a novel on my hands. And then a series. So when I went to write up a final title for the book, I came up with Andrea and the Five Day Challenge because this challenge from church is what’s really the driving force of the story as she writes in her prayer journal to God each day. And that is a plotline that will continue in all the books. The girls will all be given a prayer journal and they too will write prayers to God. I like to think of the prayer journals like the pants in the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants book series except in this case it is a prayer journal. I also knew this was going to be a series so I wanted the names to be similar. So for example, book two is titled: Amy & the Trouble With Fathers.

Cool! I like how you tied the series together with similar titles. But what about the hero and heroine? What makes them likeable? 

Andrea considers herself to be the least interesting of her group of friends. She isn’t smart like Amy or artistic like Angie or beautiful and popular like Alisha. She sees herself as that girl with the plain brown hair, size nine feet, and who doesn’t participate much in school activities. She’s a lot like most kids. I think the average teen can relate to her. Except she does have this exceptional talent she likes to downplay. She’s actually a wonderful pianist and her parents have all these designs to get her into a performing arts school so she can one day end up at a place like Julliard. In addition to that, Andrea has a sweet, caring spirit and this is something that Luke, our hero, notices right away. It sets her apart from every other girl at school in his eyes.

Then we have Luke, cute transfer student from California. Luke might be an all-star varsity baseball player, but he’s not like the rest of the A-list kids. He’s very down to earth and not looking for what’s popular and cool. He’s had to mature quickly. His family life is not the greatest. They’ve experienced a personal tragedy, and that’s part of the reason why he latches on to Andrea early on. He sees something in her that every one else seems to miss. She has value and when they get together they just kind of have that spark.

Nice! How much about this book is realistic? 

I tried very hard to make this a realistic teen book. Because this is written in first person from Andrea’s perspective, I was able to let her go a little melodramatic in her thoughts. And there were times I wondered after the first draft, if she was a little over the top in her emotions. And then I went back to work teaching teenagers. And then I was like—Nope. Nailed it! In fact, the part of the book at the very beginning is actually somewhat based on one of my personal experiences in high school when my friends wanted me to ask out a certain guy to homecoming. I latched on to those embarrassed feelings and used them in those first few chapters as a similar event unfolds for my heroine.

Hey, we raised two teenagers. I don't think there's such a thing as too much drama. lol. What makes this book special to you? 

The characters make this book so special to me. I wrote the original draft of this book about 5-6 years ago and I let it just sit for years. So these characters have been ruminating inside my head for a long time. I feel like I know these girls personally. All four of them came to me very distinct and fleshed out from the beginning. Their individual stories came to me in the writing so there are little hints in this first book about each girl’s history and the issues they have going on in the present which I don’t completely address in the first book. I don't think it was done in a way that leaves open plot threads but when you go on to read the other books readers will have hopefully picked up on these things. I delve deeper into these topics as each girl gets her own novel.

Last, but sooo important...Is there any food in this book? lol
As a matter of fact, there is. Andrea’s mom is a superb cook. They are always eating great food. She realizes food is way too comforting to her. From her mom’s homemade chicken parmesan to the cherry Danish, it’s all good and delish.  Definitely have some good food nearby when  reading.

Sounds delicious, both the book and the food! As if we needed more to entice us, here's the back cover blurb:

Dear Lord,
I need Your help and sooner would be better than later. Wouldn't you know it, just as soon as I decide to attempt the 5-Day Bible Study Challenge, my parents start heaping on loads of pressure to get me into Julliard. My friend Amy isn’t any better, urging me to ask Luke Ryan to homecoming. As if the cute, transfer jock would actually go out with me. I mean, we’re kinda friends, and I’ve enjoyed our Geometry study sessions, but in case Amy hasn’t noticed, I’m the invisible one at Aubrey Christian Academy, and I like it that way. On top of that, I have a feeling Luke’s concealing something behind those chocolate-brown eyes of his. I know I can be self-centered and a bit melodramatic, but I really do want to seek Your will for my life. Then maybe I’ll even figure out which direction points up.

Sincerely, Andrea Jamison
High School Junior
Change-o-phobic & complete neurotic

About Cindy:
Cindy K. Green has worked as a middle school history & English teacher, a frozen yogurt server and a golf magazine employee. Today she's a multi-published, award-winning author, a mother, a wife, and a homeschooler too. This native Californian now resides in North Carolina with her husband, two boys, and two cats named Chloe & Kassey. Visit her website & her blog She's on Facebook (Cindy K. Green) and Twitter (@cindykgreen) too. Connect with her on Pinterest: and Google+: as well.

Read excerpts on Cindy's blog: 

Buy Links:

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Excited about Eating by Ernie Hiers

This adventure of Excited about Eating takes us to the Midwood area of Charlotte to Midwood Smokehouse. This restaurant is tucked into the edge of a building, but it's bigger than it looks.
A Friday lunch was a 10 minute wait, but it probably took that long to snag a parking spot. Although the restaurant was jammed, service was attentive and prompt.
For starters we ordered the Fried Pickles, unique, in that they were sliced length-wise. They were coated in a spicy batter, crispy like I prefer, but I would've enjoyed them more with half the salt.
Fried Pickles
Since we expected to eat a hefty dinner that night, we shared the BBQ combo which included four meats: pork ribs, sausage, brisket (lean, fatty, combo), and chopped pork. We chose mac and cheese and creamed corn for the two sides.

The combo plate came with three dipping sauces: Midwood Signature (sweet, with just a hint of tang) for the ribs and brisket, Eastern NC Vinegar for the chopped pork, and South Carolina (spicy) Mustard for the sausage. The ribs had a wonderful smoky flavor and fall-off-the-bone meaty goodness, the star of the meats. Dora here, in blue. The ribs were finger-licking great, but Ernie's home-smoked ribs are still better. :)

The sausage ranked second, mild with just the right amount of kick. I especially liked the dark bark in both the chopped pork and brisket. Ditto for Dora. And the corn had a firm consistency, not soft or mushy. The spiral pasta had a deep cheesy flavor, but it could've been a tad warmer for my liking.

I would rate this establishment 5 forks out of 5 for a family friendly restaurant serving outstanding food.

What's your favorite BBQ spot around Charlotte?
Midwood Smokehouse on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Excited about Reading ~ His Wounded Heart By R. L. Syme

Purchase Link
The cover story:
Sean Raleigh has fired every nurse and physical therapist within firing radius. He wants to be left alone in his invalid despair. But when his best friend hires the beautiful Jaclyn Dalton, Sean's curiosity about her selflessness and unwavering faith keeps him from sending her away.
Jaclyn needs this job to stay in Montana, but Sean's icy heart and raging bitterness threaten to drive her away.
He believes his immobility is a punishment from some controlling but distant deity, yet she sees him crying out for a compassionate God he doesn't believe in. Jaclyn wants to help Sean recognize the grace that can be his, even if she has to leave him to do it, which draws her into a surprising level of emotional vulnerability-a vulnerability that will be the key to healing Sean's wounded heart.
My takeaway:
I must admit that initially I wasn’t too fond of Sean, the shoe-throwing jerk who refused to do physical therapy or hang onto a nurse. But as the story progressed and the details of his accident emerged, he grew on me, and I appreciated how much courage and strength it took for him to change over the course of the book.

The moment he touched her soft skin, he forgot all about his knee injuries, his braces, and the fact that he couldn’t stand on his own legs yet. Her smooth hand in his own, combined with the solid strength of her grip, produced a heavy thud in his chest. For one glorious moment, he could have been a whole, healthy man again, able to climb a mountain. ~Sean Raleigh

Sean labels Christians based on his experience with his father, but Carter and Jaclyn’s selfless actions slowly erode his opinion. Faced with an angry and bitter former athlete, I’m not sure I would’ve showered him with unending grace and generous love like Carter and Jaclyn, but it was a great picture of how God loves us, despite our bitterness and brokenness and in the midst of our pain and struggles. Sean also questions whether he could believe in a God who allowed bad things like his accident to happen.

Jaclyn loved a God who was real. His dad used religion to get obedience from his children, or his employees, or his wife. He used a set of beliefs to get what he wanted out of other people. He had no concept of who God really was.

It was hard to separate the two, since they claimed to worship the same God. But they didn’t. A blind fool could see the difference.

Although Sean did the most growing in His Wounded Heart, Jaclyn struggled through a rough patch herself. I appreciated that she didn’t waver in her faith, but I actually doubted if this book would deliver a happily-ever-after.

A warm, peaceful feeling spread through her chest, and she closed her eyes. As she often did when she felt God’s presence, she opened her imagination, and let the Holy Spirit comfort her. She imagined herself as a little girl, sitting on her father’s lap, held safely in his powerful arms. The peace deepened. God was at her side, and no matter what happened, He would always be with her like this.

With so much depth, physical, emotional, and spiritual, this isn’t a fluffy romance to scurry through in a couple hours. I savored this one over a few hours, rooting for Sean to be physically healed and for both of them to be emotionally whole so they could be together. Overall, I really enjoyed His Wounded Heart and would definitely pick up another book by R. L. Syme.

Disclaimer: I received His Wounded Heart free from Pelican Book Group as part of their 40 days of Lent free e-book program.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Boundaries? What Boundaries?

For those of you who joined us recently, this is Bruiser, our 10 1/2 year old Golden Retriever. Yes, I know...isn't he adorable? Add mischievous and protective and get the idea. But, he's a wonderful companion and a great watch dog. Although he's mostly inside, nobody steps foot into our yard without us knowing about it.

A few weeks ago, hubby noticed Bruiser edging closer to the neighbor's yard, so we knew the collar battery for the electric fence must've croaked. I wasn't too worried. We've lived in the house for almost eight years, with an electric fence the entire time. Since the initial training period and a couple times trying to follow hubby to the mailbox, Bruiser never wanders outside his boundaries.

But, I ordered the new battery anyway because the brute's much bigger and heavier than our neighbor's two small children. He's a bit, um, exuberant with kids (I don't even allow him alone with our grandkids) and I was more worried about him hurting them accidentally than him running into the road. As hubby says, Bruiser wouldn't wander too far from his food dish.

The day after I ordered the battery, Bruiser made it all the way to the neighbor's swingset. See that big tree in the middle? That's the edge of our property.
Seriously? With a half acre of his own to play in and living here all this time, Bruiser still tests his boundaries?

Seriously? All this I've given you to enjoy and you still test your boundaries? How many times has God whispered those same words to me? Gulp...

Have you no respect for me?
    Why don’t you tremble in my presence?
I, the Lord, define the ocean’s sandy shoreline
    as an everlasting boundary that the waters cannot cross.
The waves may toss and roar,
    but they can never pass the boundaries I set.
But my people have stubborn and rebellious hearts.
    They have turned away and abandoned me.
They do not say from the heart,
    ‘Let us live in awe of the Lord our God,
for he gives us rain each spring and fall,
    assuring us of a harvest when the time is right.’ ~Jer 5:22-24 NLT

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Excited about Eating by Ernie Hiers

This week's Excited about Eating is headed to Uptown Charlotte to visit Ri Ra Irish Pub. When we walked into this restaurant, it felt like we were walking into a pub in Ireland. Our server told us that the interior was transported from Ireland and restored into its existing condition.
Ri Ra Irish Pub
We started with the Potato Cake appetizer, pan seared potato and cheddar cakes served with savory sour cream and a balsamic reduction. The Potato Cake was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. On the downside, it was loaded with onions and only served lukewarm. Dora here, in blue. Good thing we didn't stop there. :)
Potato Cake
I ordered the Shepherd’s Pie, made with minced lamb, gravy, peas, carrots, and leeks served with a mashed potato crust and a slice of brown bread. The term “shepherd’s pie” is used when the meat is lamb; the theory being that shepherd is connected to sheep and not cattle. This was an outstanding dish. The lamb and vegetables were perfectly cooked and full of favor with just the right amount of liquid, and the mashed potatoes were creamy with a nice crust. I'm always game for Shepherd's Pie, and this was the first I've tasted with lamb. Thankfully, hubby shared with me or I might've resorted to stealing his fork. Soooo good! 
Shepherd's Pie
My wife chose the Ri Ra Burger, topped with Ashe County cheddar, country ham, brown sugar onions and a Brioche bun. This burger was tall, juicy, and almost too big for the mouth. The caramelized brown sugar onions were sweet, and the garlic mayo added a unique taste. The “Chipper “ chips are actually thick cut fries. I snagged a few and enjoyed dipping them in the garlic mayo. This was a messy burger, but oh so yummalicious! And I probably drank a gallon of their iced tea.
Ri Ra Burger
I would rate this establishment 5 forks out of 5 for a family friendly restaurant serving outstanding food. If I included the less-than-thrilling appetizer, I'd lower my rating to 4 forks.

~Ernie Hiers, Food blogger at Fiction Faith & Foodies

Ri Ra the Irish Pub on Urbanspoon
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