Cyber Monday Awaits You

Are you ready?

Hope your internet connection is better and more dependable than my AT&T has been lately.

Yep, it's time to do you Christmas shopping so get your shopping carts ready because there are all  kinds of bargains.

Here are a few I'm interested in to get you started. Better shop fast because they're going to go fast. 

Check out Amazon Cyber Monday Deals like:

Official Carpool Karaoke comes with mic and, of course, bluetooth enabled.

Bluetooth Waterproof Speaker keeps the party going even if it rains.

Eureka Groove Robot Vacuum Cleaner that's Wi-Fi Connected, Alexa App & Remote Controls, Self-Charging. Just what every busy person needs to keep the floors clean.

To find all bargains, look at the main Amazon Cyber Monday Deals page and scroll through the categories at the bottom.

Takeaway Truth

Happy shopping.











The Thanksgiving Compromise is over. No visitors, Same for Black Friday. Cyber Monday is tomorrow. After that comes 

Dealing with Holidays of Compromise

The Thanksgiving of Compromise is over.

Many felt lonely this week. I can only say, "Fight it."

Get out and do something kind for others, and you'll feel better.

That bit of advice is especially important since Christmas is coming up. I think this will be the first Christmas where you'll have your pick of parking spaces at the mall if you venture out.

Yes, we may be having the Christmas of Compromise too. No family and friends dropping by for holiday visits. No parties, large and small. 

Write Letters

I'm always urging people to rediscover the art of writing letters. Susan Lendroth said, "To write is human, to receive a letter: Devine!”

That's how I always feel if I receive an actual letter. 

Invest some time in writing letters—the old-fashioned kind with pen and paper—to those you love and won't see for whatever reason. Put your emotions, your love, your personality into a letter. You will be surprised by how grateful the recipient will be.

In this era of emails which are seldom printed and kept, letters have a special cachet. They'll be kept in a special box, perhaps bound up in ribbon too. In fact, send a beautiful box to those you love and suggest you'll write letters that can be kept in the box.

In years to come, those letters will be cherished. I believe what Emily Dickinson said is true: "A letter always seemed to me like immortality..."

Takeaway Truth

Express your love and friendship in words on real paper. The results may surprise you.

Definition of Lemon Meringue Pie

Lemon Meringue Pie

Definition: Noun. A beautiful concoction of a flaky pie crust with a lemon filling that's more tart than sweet, and topped by swirls and peaks of caramelized meringue.

Alternate: Noun. A lemon pie devoured when served. A pie never left over.

Takeaway Truth

I made a lemon meringue pie today. With guests, the pie disappeared in a serving of 8 wedges. My post-Thanksgiving cooking is completed.

No Turkey on Black Friday

Two things I'm NOT doing today: eating turkey in any form and shopping for bargains on Black Friday.

Instead, I'm getting my writing plans organized for the rest of the year. I'm staying busy because I believe in meeting adversity with action, and COVID19 has made 2020 the Year of Adversity.

It's like Lee Iacocca once said: "In times of great stress or adversity, it’s always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and your energy into something positive." 

Coming Attractions

(1) a free book promotion on Dec. 4 and 5 so if you're not a subscriber, sign up for my NL now. I'lll have another free book promotion later in December.

(2) between now and New Year's, several of my books will be available in print.

(3) a new ebook will be released by New Year's Eve.

That's right—free, free, free, and new, new, new.

Takeaway Truth

"Have great hopes and dare to go all out for them. Have great dreams and dare to live them. Have tremendous expectations and believe in them." – Norman Vincent Peale

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Thanksgiving Thoughts to Chew On

There's a lot of controversy about Thanksgiving, a holiday about which most of us have fond memories of the now-maligned holiday.

When I think about Thanksgiving, I don't think about the controversy. I think about moms and grandmoms—and a few dads and granddads— who start cooking days before the family descends en masse.

I think about dads, sons, daughters, moms, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends who play a game of touch football or Scrabble or card games. I think about the whole family watching a college or pro-football game, screaming for their team.

I think about the best of humanity and the ideals for which people should strive. Thanksgiving may have been founded on myth, but the ideal on which it was based and that we all gerw up believing in is something good.

Takeaway Truth

This is not colonial America. This is today. Isn't it time we all learned how to accept each other? How to get along? How to grow together in respect and friendship?

Holiday Movies on Netflix

Netflix, Amazon Prime, and all the other streaming services are giving Hallmark a run for the Christmas movie audience.

I've got movies from Netflix and Prime added to my Watchlist already. I love to watch these movies—even the ones I've seen countless times before.

Usually my daughter and I watch these movies together. Of course, Darling Hubby rolls his but tolerates them if I really want to see one.

Here are some of the new ones on my Netlix list. Maybe they will appeal to you too.

Netflix Offerings

The Princess Switch Switched Again starring Vanessa Hudgins, Nick Sagar, and Sam Palladio.

When Margaret's Christmas coronation complicates her love life, her double Stacy steps in to save the day. Will a 3rd lookalike ruin their plans?

Holidate starring Emma Roberts, Luke Bracey, and Kristen Chenoweth. 

Fed-up with being singles on holidays, two strangers pledge to be each other's platonic plus-one for an entire year. Of course, real feelings develop.

Midnight at Magnolia starring Natalie Hall, Evan Williams, and Michael Gordin Shore. Friends and radio hosts Maggie and Jake fake it as a couple for their families and listeners in hopes of getting their show syndicated.

The App That Stole Christmas starring Jackie Long, Diane Marie Howard, and Jaylin Hall.

A tech entrepreneur's Christmas shopping app is hugely successful, but he begins to think it may ruin Christmas spirit.

A Cinderella Story Christmas Wish starring Laura Marano, Gregg Sulkin, and Isabella Gomez.

Despite her mean stepmother and stepsisters, an aspiring singer works as an elf at a Christmas tree lot and finds a holiday miracle.

Christmas on the Square starring Dolly Parton, Christine Baranski, and Treat Williams.

There's no holiday cheer when a cold-hearted woman tries to sell her hometown's land. Can music, magic, and memories change her mind?

Holiday Home Makeover with Benjamin Bradley. Okay, this is not a movie, but it's a Christmas decorating program so that's like catnip to a kitty for me. I love decorating shows and one for the holidays is even better!

Takeaway Truth

I know what I'll be doing the day after Thanksgiving, and it won't be shopping for Black Friday bargains. Watching holiday movies. Join me?

IMHO: Worst Thanksgiving Foods

Come on, be honest. What Thanksgiving food makes you shudder when you see the overloaded table?

Is it Granny Ruth's Candied Yams?

Maybe it's your dad's jellied cranberry gunk in a can.

Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, deliciousness is in the taste buds of the eater. Your favorite dish may be another's culinary nightmare.

Worst Thanksgiving Foods Ever

This is my list, but most of these are listed on various websites so don't hate me. *LOL*

1. Candied Sweet Potatoes or Yams. You know those golden delicious goodies that can be baked, mashed, or made into fries? Why would you dump extra sugar on them when they're already sweet? Why cover with marshmallows? Save those for S'Mores.

2. Canned Jellied Cranberry Sauce. Open the can and slide it onto a relish dish, and it retains the impression of the can.

I make fresh cranberry-orange relish, but I always have to buy a can of Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce, the jelly type, for my Darling Hubby. For him, it's not Thanksgiving dinner without it. 

3. Green Bean Casserole. OMG. I remember the first time I ever saw this dish. Limp green beans swimming in cream of mushroom soup and topped with canned fried onion rings? To me, it looked like something to be thrown down the disposal. 

4. Stuffing from a box. With so many wonderful recipes online, why prepare a box of this stuff? Drop by the Food Network online or any place that offers great recipes. Make your own stuffing or dressing if you call it that.

5. Mashed Cauliflower disguised as Potatoes. Okay, let's be honest. No matter how you disguise it, there's no way cauliflower will ever be mistaken for potatoes. If you have guests, make your mashed cauliflower but also make some mashed potatoes for those who expect that. Btw, some people may have difficulty digesting cruciferous vegetables.

Takeaway Truth

Now I know millions of you love the foods on my list so be tolerant of my dislike, and I'll be tolerant of your love for these foods.

Review: Cobra Kai

Our daughter kept telling us we should watch Cobra Kai. She and her hubby loved it!

Of course, she was a young kid in the 1980s and is fond of anything from the 80s such as Stranger Things. She remembers the first Karate Kid movie fondly.

I've been busy with other things so I didn't even check it out on Netflix.

This past weekend, Darling Hubby and I were taking a break so we decided to watch the first episode.

Binge Watching Ensured

Yep. We were hooked. It was like visiting relatives we hadn't seen in decades.

In case you haven't watched it yet—and you really should—Cobra Kai is a comedy-drama streaming television series that shows how Daniel LeRusso (played by Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence, his mortal enemy (played by William Zabka) are living their lives in present day.

The Karate Kid series was created by Robert Mark Kamen, and Cobra Kai drops in moments from the original movie as backstory for the characters. The series, created by Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, and Hayden Schlossberg stars both Macchio and Zabka who not only reprise their roles from the movie but also serve as co-executive producers of the series.

Past World

Daniel LaRusso won the big karate tournament despite being injured. 

Johnny Lawrence lost the tournament but gained respect for Daniel and presented the trophy to Daniel.

Unfortunately, his altruism was punished by his sensei who  took out his anger on Johnny thus affecting Johnny's entire life (because of what Johnny told himself about the incident).

Present Day

It's 34 years later, and Daniel is a wealthy luxury auto dealer who thinks he has it all with a beautiful wife, a pretty daughter, and a growing son.

Unfortunately, Daniel has problems brewing, but he's blind to them. His daughter is hanging out with the wrong crowd. His son is addicted to video games and food. His business is under attack from a rival, and his old nemesis Johnny Lawrence brings back all the unresolved issues of his high school years.

Poor Johnny Lawrence is a loser. No friends. No job. No money. No self-esteem. He's divorced and estranged from his son. His life is crap, and he gets through it with one beer after another.

Circumstances prompt him into opening a dojo, bringing back the Cobra Kai name. Unfortunately, he hasn't learned the lessons he needs to know in order to live happily and successfully. He teaches his students the way he was taught which just doesn't work. The trouble is, he doesn't know that. Yet.

Cobra Kai is all about character growth, and that's true for both Daniel and Johnny.

How Series Came to Life

The series first launched on YouTube Red, the YouTube subscription service now called YouTube Premium. The first two seasons were released in 2018 to 2019. In June of this year, Netflix acquired the series, and it was immediately a huge hit.

The 3rd season is scheduled to be released on January 8, 2021, and it's already been renewed for a 4th season. That shows how the viewing public received it.

Takeaway Truth

I won't give up any more plot elements, but, trust me, you'll like the series.

Alexa Skill: Thankful Daily

Although not designated a Thanksgiving Skill, the one I'm reviewing today qualifies because it's to make you mindful of your blessings, many of which you take for granted.

Thankful Daily by Twin Rabbits

Guidance is suggested for children, but this "Free to Enable" skill is easy to use I think.

With 169 Reviews averaging 4.4 out of 5 stars, this skill is opened by saying, "Alexa, ask Thankful Daily, what can I be thankful for today?" Or, simply say, "Open Thankful Daily."

Description

We all have much to be thankful for, but sometimes we're in such a rush that we forget to acknowledge that fact.

Thankful Daily is a reminder for us to be conscious of the blessings in our lives. 

Contains Dynamic Content.

Supported Languages: English (AU), English (CA), English (GB), English (IN), English (US), German (DE).

To close the skill, say "Alexa, stop."

Takeaway Truth

Try this. You may be surprised by the sense of peace it gives you. Happy Thanksgiving.

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Saturday Share Recipe: Wannabe Heavenly Hash Candy

I've been off for 10 days! Wow, it's almost time to put that turkey in the oven.

It's also time I return to writing after spending  several weeks cleaning out the clutter from every nook and cranny at my home in Houston. 

We finished up all of our projects inside and out, and I have my winter annuals planted.

Today I'm back at the computer to share with you one of the easiest homemade candies to make—just in time for the holidays.

Don't be afraid that this is complicated and timee-consuming. It's not. The results are incredibly delicious. Some call this Heavenly Hash Candy. If your taste buds haven't met Heavenly Hash before, read on. If you know this wonderful candy, skip to the recipe.

Heavenly Hash Candy History

I grew up in Louisiana, and one of the favorite candies for most of us was Heavenly Hash, made by the Elmer Candy Company.

The Elmer Candy Company was originally named the Miller Candy Company and was founded in 1855 in New Orleans. In the 1900s Augustus Elmer married Miller's daughter, and the company name was changed to Miller-Elmer. Later, when their 5 sons joined the company, the name changed again to Elmer Candy Company.

One of their most popular products was Heavenly Hash, a recipe they acquired in 1923 from a New Orleans department store.

Like most treats and foods, home cooks tried to duplicate Heavenly Hash. My mom had a recipe for a homemade version of this. You can also find many recipes online for this. 

Today, the Elmer Candy Company still thrives, but I haven't seen a Heavenly Hash candy in years. Maybe I'm not looking hard enough, but I can make a good Chocolate-Coconut-Pecan candy at home that's just as satisfying to me. In fact, this is the easiest candy recipe you can make.

No Bake Chocolate-Coconut-Pecan Candy

Ingredients

12 oz. Ghirardelli chocolate chips of your choice (I prefer the dark chocolate)
1 can condensed milk (my Mom always used Eagle brand, but there are many choices)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 pound mini-marshmallows 

Directions

1. Pour the condensed milk into a mixing bowl.
2. Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave. Usually takes 30 to 60 seconds depending on your microwave. Start out with 30 seconds then stir. Keep going in 15 second increments until it melts smoothly.
3. Pour the melted chocolate into the condensed milk and blend well.
4. Add the pecans and mix well.
5. Fold in the small marshmallows.
6. Drop the mixture by teaspoons onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. 
7. Place into a cold oven for 4-6 hours (not to bake them, just to have a draft free cool place where they can stay undisturbed while they set up. Turn each over to the other side and leave overnight in the cold oven. 
8. Place in air-tight container or gift boxes.

This recipe makes 2 large cookie sheets of delicious holiday treats.

Takeaway Truth

These are so easy to make you should treat yourself to a batch even if you don't have company for Thanksgiving. Show them off on a video get-together.

Cover Reveal: Baked With Love by Peggy Jaeger

I'm thrilled to participate in the cover reveal for Peggy Jaeger's new release.

See the gorgeous cover here? Wow. I'm willing to bet the story is as good as the cover.

BAKED WITH LOVE (Book 3 of A Match Made in Heaven) releases December 9. 

Published by the Wild Rose Press, you can pre-order it now on Amazon.

About BAKED WITH LOVE

Innkeeper Maureen O'Dowd lives to cook and bake, spoils her family and friends, and is an expert at keeping secrets, especially about the man who's held her heart for years.

Police Chief Lucas Alexander is dealing with an aging father and a moody teenage son, and he's in love with a woman who only wants to be friends.

How can these two fiercely private people reveal their feelings for one another without destroying the friendship they already have? And if they're successful, will another secret, if revealed, drive a wedge between Maureen and Lucas that can never be repaired?

BAKED WITH LOVE promises to be a delight because Peggy's books are always that—delightful romances.

Takeaway Truth

Pre-order it today for a heartwarming romance to read after a day of Christmas shopping.

Big Sale: Storms of New England by Kari Lemor

I'm pleased to announce that my friend Kari Lemor is having a Fall Sale on the books in her Storms of New England series.

From now until Nov. 20, you can get all 5 books in the series for under $11.00! 

Praise for The Storms of New England

“The author writes beautifully, drawing the reader into the hearts and minds of the characters.”
 
“This played like a Lifetime movie in my head.”

“I am now in love with the Storm family and can’t wait for the next book to be released!” 

The Books in The Storms of New England  

💖99c ELUSIVE DREAMS
An injured Marine, an introverted loner, two orphaned children needing a home. Can they create a perfectly imperfect family? (marriage of convenience, girl next door)

💖99c TRUE DREAMS 
A recovering addict in search of a quiet life. An innocent optimist seeking fame and fortune. Can she see beyond his past to heal his damaged soul? (boss/employee, bad boy/virgin)

💖STOLEN DREAMS
An uptight perfectionist. A bohemian free spirit. Can she convince him a walk on the wild side is good for the soul? (opposites attract, friends with benefits)

💖BROKEN DREAMS
A new single dad. An unconventional nanny. A little boy in his own world. Can she show them that family is more than an image? (single dad/nanny, special needs family found)

💖99c FORGOTTEN DREAMS 
Ten years ago he left her to join the navy. Now he’s back ready to pick up where they left off. Can the magic of Christmas open her heart up enough to trust him again? (sweet Christmas reunion novella) 

Find out all about these books at Kari's Website.

Sneak Peek: Elusive Dreams

“I have to know you’d be okay with marrying me. It wouldn’t be a traditional marriage, obviously. I wouldn’t expect anything from you…you know…in that way. It would be a marriage of convenience, in name only.

Her tongue poked out as she glanced at the floor. “You really want to marry a freak?”

“You really want to marry a scarred, impotent soldier who can’t walk?” There, he’d said it, and the world hadn’t ended. And she hadn’t walked out or looked at him with pity in her eyes. That’s what he dreaded most. The pity. 

Sneak Peek: True Dreams

Jim’s words of putting it in the past and moving on rang through his head. Maybe he should try. Ask her out on a date. Easy, right? Baby steps.

“I’m hot. How’d you like to get ice cream before we head home?”

Sara chewed on her lip. “I didn’t bring my purse. Are you paying? I’ll pay you back later.”

“My treat.”

Jumping to his feet, he took her hand and hauled her up. They were going out for ice cream, and it was his treat. Could that count as a date? He thought it could. Even if she didn’t know.

Visit Kari Online

Website: https://www.karilemor.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Karilemorauthor/

Reader Group-The Lit Lounge - https://www.facebook.com/groups/373521153021256/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/karilemor

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/karilemorauthor/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9756283.Kari_Lemor

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/kari-lemor

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Kari-Lemor/e/B00ON2YDI6/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/karilemor/ 

Takeaway Truth

For a romance with women's fiction elements, choose Kari Lemor! You'll be glad you did.

Understanding The Witcher Starring Henry Cavill

Did you watch The Witcher starring Henry Cavill when it debuted on Netflix last December?

If you hadn't read the books, did you feel as if youd been dropped in the middle of a maze and couldn't find your way out?

If that was the case, you may have given up on the series.

I've got some good news. Available now, also from Netflix, is The Witcher: A Look Inside the Episodes.

Lauren Schmidt, an American TV producer and Screenwriter, is the writer and producer of The Witcher, based on the book series by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski.

Perhaps she realized an explanation of the story would make the characters and story more accessible to those who had not read the books.

Clarity

Darling Hubby loved the Netflix series, but I couldn't get into it. So many characters popping in and out and too many scenes that made me feel as if I were barging into the middle of a story instead of being introduced into a story. 

Inside the Episodes makes sense of everything, clarifies the story line which hopscotches from present to past to future, and back again.

Henry Cavill is such a superb actor that I regretted giving up on the series so I appreciated the explanations offered by the inside look.

Takeaway Truth

I'm watching The Witcher again with renewed enthusiasm. I urge you to give it a try, but first watch Inside the Episodes. It makes all the difference to a viewer who has not read the books.


Thanksgiving Gift: Gratitude

In the United States, on the 4th Thursday of November, we celebrate  Thanksgiving.

I decided to make November a time to give the gift of Gratitude.

The Gift of Gratitude

Yes, gratitude is a gift you can give to yourself and to those close to you. Rather than griping about what's wrong, actively express gratitude about what's right.

I decided to give the Gift of Gratitude by sending a personal note to family and friends to thank them for being a blessing in my life, and also tell them how they have blessed my life.

Giving this gift to others makes you feel so good mentally and emotionally. Giving gratitude makes you aware of all you have for which to be grateful. It's like giving the Gift of Gratitude to yourself.

The Gift of No Complaints

In addition to giving the gift of Gratitude to those I love, I'm giving the gift of No Complaints to my Darling Hubby. No complaining this month about the aches and pains that plague me on a daily basis.

I can manage some of the pain, but eliminating it hasn't worked so far, but during November I'm silencing my complaints.

I'm always saying "focus on what's good in your life, not what's bad," but I often have a difficult time doing that. It's not easy. It's a learned skill, and I still have to work at it.'

Speak gratitude. Write gratitude. Think about it. Dwell on it.

Takeaway Truth

I think this month of Thanksgiving is the perfect time to do this. Maybe you'll be inspired to do the same. Please let me know if you give yourself the gift of gratitude. If you do, especially let me know if it makes a difference in your life.

Chrysanthemum Season

Fall is chrysanthemum season, and this season the mums are glorious.

Mums are one of my favorite flowers. They're very popular in Japan which is where my love affair with mums began.

Every week the flower mamasan would visit my neighborhood. She carried a huge aluminum dishpan balanced on her head.

Within the dishpan were bunches of cut mums of every color. For a dollar, you could obtain cut flowers to fill 2 vases.

She taught me the secret to making cut mums last for as long as possible. Take the cut flowers and put them in a vase of hot water from the tap. This somehow preserved the blooms better than regular water. 

Readily Available Just About Anywhere

Of course, here in the U.S., cut flowers of every variety are available at your local supermarket or on a busy boulevard where commuters can be hailed and cajoled into buying flowers to take home.

Something else that abounds in the flower section of my local supermarket are potted mums. They're offered just about every month. 

These are grown in greenhouses and are not the same as the garden mums you can also buy now. I usually don't buy garden mums because I get a second life from the mums I buy for indoors.

Every few weeks, I buy a pot of mums of whatever color strikes my fancy and place the plastic pot of them into a large round flower pot.

I have several of these large pots that I bought when I lived in Japan. They are ceramic pots decorated with leaves and flowers and were called fishbowls over there. The pot of mums, orange at the moment, graces my coffee table for a couple of weeks. I check the soil each day to make sure they have enough moisture.

Mums Live 2 Lives

When the blooms begin to fade, I remove the plastic pot from the decorative flower pot and carry them outside. 

I remove them from the plastic pot and plant them either in the yard or in one of the huge flower pots where I have herbs or some other plant growing. 

I cut off the tops of the fading mums, back to an inch above the soil, and let Mother Nature and time work their magic. 

In a couple of weeks or less, new green shoots begin to appear from the mums. By spring, they'll bloom again. I'll cut them back, and by late autumn, I'll have another blooming period from them. Best of all, the mums will multiply so a small bunch eventually becomes a beautiful display.

I've got different colored mums in many places in the yards of both of my houses. Bronze ones begin blooming when the lantana at the ranch begins to die back. White ones and purple ones with yellow centers are in my herb pots. There's an endless variety to this flower that produces its own natural pesticide. 

Natural Pesticide

Mums contain a neurotoxin called Pyrethrin, that kills insectsand repels ticks, fleas, ants, Japanese beetles and many other insects. Pyrethril is sold as a pesticide. It is considered safe for use around most animals except cats and fish who are sensitive to it. The danger lies in how concentrated or how large an amount might be ingested.

Takeaway Truth

Mums are beautiful, showy, and easy to grow. 

Alexa Skill for Thanksgiving

Today is the first day of November, and I'm already thinking about Thanksgiving and holiday fun.

Since we're in a state of change with the house going up for sale, I don't know whether we'll have family and friends gathered around the dining table.

Despite this, I am grateful, thankful, and determined to be cheerful.

I came across a couple of Alexa Skills that should help keep one optimistic.


Free to enable, this skill contains dynamic content and is activated immediately on your Alexa device. To start it, simply say, "Alexa, Open Happy Thanksgiving."

I've enabled this, but I have not listened yet. Too much packing and moving going on in my household. Since I haven't listened to the stories yet, I cannot vouch for them. Some people take issue with the Thanksgiving holiday so make sure the content is sensitive to your particular view before letting your children or grandchildren listen.

What The Skill Is

The skill is a simple storytelling and quiz skill for children that tells the story of the first Thanksgiving. Simple trivia questions about Thanksgiving are asked. The information is short and simple, easy and interesting for children since it uses different voices and sounds. 

Once started, the skill progresses through the story without your doing anything else. At the end of the stories, you're asked questions so you can see how well you did.

Supported Languages are English (AU), English (CA), English (GB), English (IN), and English (US).

Happy Thanksgiving! Have a wonderful holiday with your family and friends - especially the little ones!

Takeaway Truth

To me, Thanksgiving is not so much a celebration of that long ago dinner as it is a day of reflection and appreciation. We should pause and take the time to count our blessings.


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Count Dracula: Forever Relevant

How many Halloween celebrants will appear as the undead Count Dracula?

The infamous vampire master was first seen on the pages of a novel on May 26, 1897, the day Dracula by Bram Stoker went on sale in London.

Abraham "Bram" Stoker was an Irish author better known in his day as the personal assistant of actor Henry Irving and as the business manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London which was owned by Irving.

Although Stoker traveled a great deal, often visiting the United States which he particularly liked, he never visited Transylvania where his famous novel was set. He also never equaled the publishing success of Dracula.

Write What You Know

Stoker followed the first rule authors learn: write what you know. He used the English village of Whitby, Slains Castle in Aberdeenshire, and the crypts of St. Michan's Church in Dublin as inspiration for his novel.

The dark, moody stories told by Armin Vambery, a Hungarian writer and traveler, also served as inspiration. After meeting Vambery, Stoker spent years researching European folklore and mythological stories of vampires.


Dracula, The Novel

Most people have never read the original Dracula novel which was written as a collection of diary entries, telegrams, letters, ship's logs, and newspaper clippings thus making what is called an epistolary novel.

Stoker's original 541-page manuscript of the work was thought to be lost. In the early 1980's, the manuscript was found in a barn in northwestern Pennsylvania.

The typed manuscript held editing corrections and on the title page, handwritten, was Stoker's title The Un-Dead.

The author's name appeared at the bottom as Bram Stoker. At the last minute, the publisher changed the title to Dracula.

Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, purchased that rare manuscript. No price was given, but Allen is a billionaire with deep pockets. I don't know that he's ever put the manuscript on public display. I'm sure there would be many who would like to see it.

Just a side note, in 2013, in the UK, a signed first edition of the book sold for approximately $46,000 USD.

Dracula for Every Generation

If Stoker only knew how his vampire tale has morphed to be relevant to each new generation.

Instead of a Transylvanian vampire and English victims, we've had Lestat, the unforgettable vampire in Interview with the Vampire, and his sidekicks from the brain of Anne Rice.

The comic Dracula played by George Hamilton in the movie Love At First Bite made us scream—with laughter.

David Boreanaz as Angel, the sensitive tormented vampire with a soul, first appeared as the love interest on the TV series Buffy.

The actor and his character made such an impact that he was spun off into his own series, Angel.

A particularly compelling and emotional version of the story in 2014 was Dracula Untold starring Luke Evans

With the romance revolution, Romance became a bridge over which the undead crossed to other literary genres. Amazing,  considering Stoker had published stories for over 20 years before Dracula was published.

Popular From the Get-Go

London was primed for Stoker's novel because the horror genre, created almost entirely from European folk tales and legends, was very popular.

The Gothic movement in the 18th century strengthened the genre so that it carried into the 19th century. Notable examples are Frankenstein, 1818, by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, 1886. 

When the 20th century ushered in the era of motion pictures, Dracula came to life. In 1931, the first movie about the vampire count premiered.

The film was based on the 1924 stage play, Dracula, by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston—which was adapted from Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula by Bram Stoker.

Not a decade has passed that there hasn't seen some incarnation of the famous vampire.

The vampire novel wears many labels today: alternative reality, urban contemporary, paranormal, and horror to name a few. 

Takeaway Truth

Whatever it's called, the tale of this particular type of undead provides fresh inspiration to each new generation which then puts its own spin on the mythology.

Recipe: Old-Fashioned Popcorn Balls

Halloween brings memories of the fun we all had when we were kids. That was back when you could go Trick or Treating without parents.

Getting Snickers and other little candy bars was great, but what we all treasured were the popcorn balls made by little old ladies in the neighborhood.

Sure, you can get a popcorn ball on Amazon or at a  supermarket checkout stand in October, but you miss the glorious deliciousness of one made at home.

My Mom made them a few times a year, and they were a favorite treat for my brothers and me.

One thing I must point out is to be very careful when heating the caramel mixture on the stove. I still have a scar on my upper right arm where I managed to brush against the side of the saucepan. So make sure your kids don't get up close and personal as you pour the hot mixture into the bowl of popped corn.

Old-Fashioned Popcorn Balls

Ingredients

8 cups popped corn
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup Karo light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter (1 and 1/2 sticks)

Instructions

1. Measure the popped corn into large heat-proof bowl.

2. Combine all the other ingredients in a large heavy saucepan like a Dutch oven.

3. Heat the mixture to over medium to high heat, stirring frequently.

4. Cook, stirring constantly, until the temperature of the mixture registers 260 degrees F. on a candy thermometer.

5. Reduce heat to low and stir in the butter. Keep stirring until it's all melted. 

6. Pour the hot mixture in a thin stream over the popped corn in a large bowl. Stir the corn as you're pouring the hot caramel mixture so the popped corn gets well-coated.

7. Cool the coated popcorn slightly. If it's too hot, it won't hold together in balls. If it gets too cool, it will be hard to form into balls.

8. Butter your hands, take a handful of coated popcorn, and shape into balls. Make popcorn balls as large or as small as you wish. My Mom and the other ladies made them the size of a baseball.

9. Place each popcorn ball on a sheet of wax paper to cool.

10. When completely cool, wrap each in plastic wrap. You can also place each in a sealable plastic bag.

Takeaway Truth

Try these once, and you'll make them as a Halloween treat every year.

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Review: Wanted, Australian Netflix Series

The SlingWords Review Staff (Darling Hubby and I) just finished watching the 3 seasons of Wanted, an Australian crime thriller.

I understand that this series was Australia's most-watched drama series of 2016.

I can certainly understand why most viewers were glued to their seats as the series with its train-wreck characters unfolded.

The first thing you'll notice is how every situation has unexpected complications. Complications? OMG! It's more like every single action results in catastrophic complications with no easy resolution in sight.

You might say an alternate title for this series could easily be "out of the frying pan and into the fire" because that's exactly what happens scene after scene after scene. You end up on the edge of your seat to see what happens next. I guarantee you won't see what's coming next. 

After a few episodes of this kind of plotting, I knew to expect increasingly worse complications with the characters always making the wrong choice. It was exhausting.

I mentioned train-wreck characters. I don't think I've ever watched anything where every character was so emotionally damaged, so screwed-up that they always chose the off-the-wall, criminal solution to everything!

Having said all that, the crazy weirdo characters end up getting to you. Even as you're shouting, "How can you be so stupid?" you're understanding that they're acting within the framework of their respective personalities and attitudes. 

The Cast

Rebecca Gibney as Lola Buckley.
Geraldine Hakewill as Chelsea Babbage.
Stephen Peacocke as Detective Josh Levine.
Nicholas Bell as Ray Stanton.
Charles Cottier as David Buckley.

There are more members of the cast, but these are the ones you need to know for the first season.

Binge Watching Continues

After the first season's episodes finished, I was hesitant to start Season 2 because it was so frustrating! 

I have a really low threshold for stupidity, which characterizes far too many of the characters' actions, but Darling Hubby couldn't wait to dive in.

Halfway through Season 2, I gave up and got a book to read. Darling Hubby couldn't believe I could just stop watching. *LOL* 

I asked him why he wanted to keep watching. He said, "I'm watching to see how on earth the writers get them out of the latest catastrophe."

That's the kind of answer I should have given! Maybe I'm rubbing off on him. *g*

Takeaway Truth

Check out the trailer for Wanted on YouTube. If you're a Netflix subscriber, be sure and watch Wanted.

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10 Tips to Survive Interior Painting

Today was the big day! We made the decision to have the interior and exterior of our house painted.

That decision wasn't easy to make considering the expense, but we were put on our painter's schedule a month ago.

We knew we were gambling on unpredictable fall weather, but we have more sunny days than rainy days in Houston. We were sure things would work out.

Nope!

Last night, a cold drizzle started. Today, it's done nothing but rain. I had planned to spend the day outside on the courtyard patio in front. 

Instead, I'm trapped inside with the smell of paint. It's not as bad as traditional paint since we requested the no-odor which in actuality is low-odor.

How to Survive Interior Painting

Advance planning is the key.

1. Make sure you and the painter agree in advance about all issues, especially about who will move furniture that may be blocking walls, art hanging on the walls, etc.

2. Most contractor crews love to play music while they're working so tell them in advance they can do this. 

If certain genres of music bother you, i.e., gangsta rap with profanity would be a big no-no for me, then communicate politely so they'll know what's okay. Most willingly listen to classic rock.

3.  Even though painters will cover things with drop cloths, move anything especially precious from table tops and areas that are to be painted.

4. Secure any valuables. Good painters are responsible and honest and should have insurance that covers anything that may be damaged, or, heaven forbid, stolen. Your painter doesn't want someone on his crew doing that any more than you do. Prevention is a good thing. Don't create temptation by leaving things out.

5. If you have a pet who lives inside, plan on having a friend keep Fido or Kitty. Don't put your pet in a room with a closed door and expect it to be happy and quiet. They can hear strangers in the house, and that creates anxiety.

6. Plan where or what you'll be having for lunch on painting day. Paint crews sometimes take lunch breaks in rotation so you may not be able to leave the house for a lunch out. Stock up on sandwich items or microwave entrees.

7. Boredom creates anxiety if you're sitting around with nothing to do but wait. Plan in advance so you have a project to do on your laptop or tablet. 

Also have a book you've been wanting to read loaded on your Kindle or iPhone, or have a print copy handy.

8. Select a place where you'll be out of the way but available should the painters have questions and put a comfortable chair there.

9. Every hour or so, walk around to make sure the project is going according to contract. Ask questions if something doesn't look quite right.

10. Most of all, be polite. Most contractor crews are hardworking professionals who want to do the best job they can so you'll be happy and recommend them to others. Treat them with respect and consideration, and they'll love working for you.

Takeaway Truth

In all things, the Golden Rule is the best rule to follow. Treat others as you would want to be treated.

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