Friday, April 18, 2014

Organic Beauty by Rebecca Park Totilo

Rebecca Park Totilo has put together wonderful recipes for using essential oils for natural skin care, hair care and bath and body products in Organic Beauty. Essential oils come from plant leaves or other parts of the flower or rind from citrus fruits.

One comment she made surprised me. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, unlike its counterpart in the European Union, doesn't test 90% of the beauty products we use and many of them contain parabens which can be absorbed through the skin. Beware of products containing this chemical preservative (even if the label says "natural" or "organic") and often named with prefixes such as methyl, propyl, butyl and ethyl.

I won the book at I'd Rather be at the Beach blog. Hop on over to take a look at her book reviews.

I also found some sites that give more details on paraben/sulphate free products.
Sulfate Free Shampoo
Huffington Post Article
Walmart Paraben Free Shampoos

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wordless Wednesday - Bluebonnet Festival, Ennis, Texas

Texas Bluebonnets

Texas Bluebonnets

Texas Bluebonnets
Bluebonnets, Ennis, Texas


Texas Bluebonnets

Texas Bluebonnets

Monday, April 14, 2014


A friend had an extra ticket to see Stomp at the Bass Hall in Fort Worth. Although I saw the performance several years ago,  I always love going to the Bass Hall. The performers in Stomp are amazing. I can't imagine that I ever had that much energy to jump around and use every day articles as instruments. The choreography is amazing.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Half the Sky

Jane Pauley touches on the story of Jenny and Richard Bowen in her book Your Life Calling and their quest to rescue adopted girls in China. The Bowens, who were empty nesters, had adopted a child from China where girls are often abandoned because of the one child per family law. What the Bowens found when they arrived was orphanages with two or three babies in each crib and none of them made a sound. Apart from feeding and changing soiled diapers, they were ignored and thus the babies no longer made an attempt to get attention by crying. Maya, whom they eventually adopted, was left by a bus station when she was only one. It took six months for their adopted daughter to respond to them, even though Jenny kept her with her constantly by sitting her on her lap while she worked. They came to a decision to help more children and in 1998 the Half the Sky Foundation  was formed. Half the Sky is from a Chinese saying "Women hold up half the sky."
Since then, Centers have blossomed throughout China giving these children love and care.

All the children who are held and loved will know how to love others. Spread these virtues through the world, nothing more need be done.
Chinese quotation
300 B.C. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Last Day to use Smashwords 75% off Coupon for High Tide

Tomorrow is the last day to use the High Tide e-book coupon. Go to and enter 
coupon code  EX66B at check out

High Tide is the second book in the Lowenna Series

Friday, April 4, 2014

Book Covers

Have you ever picked up a book and thought the cover looked familiar? Well designers often use stock photos where you can "purchase" the photo for use on your book cover. Unfortunately, each photo can be sold more than once resulting in duplicate cover pictures.

Find more duplicates here

More duplicate pictures here

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh

I will start by saying The Fever Tree is one of my favorite reads this year.

Although not mentioned in the book, the time period according to the author's notes, is the end of the 19th Century. A young English woman, Frances, is given no option but to marry a man she hardly knows, after the death of her father. Dr. Matthews has begun a practice in South Africa and takes on a quest to tackle the growing smallpox epidemic which is unpopular with the diamond mine owners because fear of the disease might unravel their carefully constructed mines. They chose instead to dismiss any cases as misdiagnosed. To add to her confusion, Frances begins a romance with an unscrupulous man while on the ship crossing to the Cape. She feels torn between her husband and lover. One is fighting for the health of the community, the other to make a fortune at any cost.

My thoughts:
Although society women were encouraged to do little else but embroider and play the piano in preparation for marriage, I wished Frances had a little more gumption rather than just drifting from one man to the other. I would have liked to have seen a character change before the last pages of the book. The author's descriptions and settings gave me a good idea of life in South Africa during this period. It was a harsh and dusty existence and like many of the colonies, natives were the ones to suffer the most. Kimberley still remains the largest hand dug diamond mine in the world. You can view pictures on Jennifer McVeigh's web site here. It is obvious that Ms. McVeigh did a great deal of research and the book enlightened me on the history of the area as the British colony evolved.

I assume the story takes place after the Boer War when Voortrekkers, those of Dutch decent, moved out of the British controlled Cape Colony. Boer is the Dutch and Afrikaans word for farmer.
During the 19th century there was a surplus of women in England and they were encouraged to immigrate to the colonies. The Emigration Association was formed helping educated women to travel in groups to countries where they might find work and it was with this group that Frances traveled to South Africa. Many women found themselves working by sorting diamonds for mine owners.  While Joseph Baier was a fictional character, he was formed from mine owners of the time. Jennifer McVeigh, who based her story on a doctor's diary found in a library, states that like Baier, Cecil Rhodes covered up the smallpox epidemic in order to protect his mine investments. Despite his unscrupulous actions, after he founded De Beer's diamond mines in Kimberley, he went on to become one of the wealthiest men in Africa and Prime Minister of the Cape. Much as the Reitz family struggled with farming on the Karoo, where sheep still graze on the immense space, droughts and plagues of locust, hit the farmers, many of whom had little farming experience and were escaping the growing unemployment in England. Rietfontein is an actual location in South Africa.

Some words used throughout the book:
Boer - Farmer
Kaffir - A derogatory term for black Africans and no longer used
Askari - A native soldier fighting for the colonial army

Discussion questions here.

Monday, March 24, 2014

High Tide - Cozy Mystery Coupon

For 75% off High Tide e-book (good until April 10), go to and enter 
coupon code  EX66B at check out

High Tide is the second book in the Lowenna Series

High Tide 

Giovanna Matthews settles happily into the English west country village of Lowenna, but a storm is about to rock her world. Distressing the ladies from the knitting circle, a body drifts in with a high tide. Unconvinced the death is an accident, Gia leaves no pebble unturned while sleuthing her way around the village. Her delving further disrupts village life much to the distress of many villagers who want every rock to stay firmly in place. Meanwhile, her boyfriend, David, has an unwelcome visitor who threatens to unravel the bonds that tie him and Gia. Can Gia solve the mystery and encourage the visitor to leave before her anchor in the village is uprooted and she too is cast out to sea? 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

23 1/2 Hours

This is a 9 minute video by Doc Mike Evans. Well worth watching. What surprised me most was the trial comparing exercise and inserting a stent to reduce plaque in arteries. Also, those who watch television for 5 hours or more a day may reduce their life span by 5 years. If living a more healthy lifestyle is on your list of resolutions this year it's definitely something to think about. Love the graphics.

Friday, March 21, 2014

London Hospital

London Hospital is a British television series (called Casualty 1900s in England). It is much the same premise as Gray's Anatomy but follows nurses, rather than doctors. They enter the profession as a probationer (nurse in training). The London Hospital (now known as the Royal London Hospital), in the 1900s, had the largest and most advanced emergency services in England and dealt with patients who lived in the poorer and squalid area of London - the  East End. Each of the series bases its characters and events on actual people with stories gleaned from personal memoirs, hospital records and newspaper articles.

You can read more about the series here.

What a difference there was in care the days before penicillin and anesthesiology. Patients died from infection and a doctor, often with no knowledge of anesthesia, was chosen to assist during surgery. Without knowledge of the correct doses of chloroform or ether, deaths from anesthetic were not uncommon.

Radiology was used but not understood and as shown in season 1, radiologists often "lost" fingers and hands and eventually died from exposure.

Before the National Health Service was formed, hospitals treating the poor ran solely on donations mainly from the aristocracy and royal family.

Nurses had a tough life, living at the hospital and not permitted to marry which changed in 1940 (according to a statement in London Hospital Season 1).

I watched the series through Amazon Prime. You can sign up for a free 30 day trial here

Note: One doctor seemed familiar to me, Dr. Ingrams, but I could remember where I'd seen him until I did a Google search. If you are a fan of PBS shows, you might remember him in Silk. His name is Tom Hughes.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Buried in a Bog by Sheila Connolly

Buried in a Bog by Sheila Connolly is a cozy mystery that gives us a glimpse into every day life in Ireland. Ms. Connolly's grandfather was born in County Cork and after she discovered a pub called Connolly's in the village of Leap, she used it as a backdrop for Sullivan's in her novel. There are many interesting tidbits in the book such as the confusion over names. Traditionally the first born son is named after his father's father, the daughter after her mother's mother, resulting in same names for different  members of the family (a genealogy nightmare). 

From the cover:
Honoring the wish of her late grandmother, Maura Donovan visits the small Irish village where Gran was born—never expecting to get bogged down in a murder mystery. Nor had she planned to take a job in one of the local pubs, but she finds herself excited to get to know the people who knew her Gran.
In the pub, she's swamped with drink orders as everyone in town gathers to talk about the recent discovery of an almost 100-year-old body in a nearby bog. When Maura realizes she may know something about the dead man—and that the body's connected to another, more recent, death—she fears she's about to become mired in a homicide investigation. Maura has a sinking feeling she may really be getting in over her head...
My thoughts: This is one of my favorites so far this year. I enjoyed the setting and the story, but I did want to understand more about Maura's life in Boston. Surely there must have been mementos and things that she might have wanted to keep, especially to remember her grandmother by. Ms. Connolly does a great job at describing things that might baffle someone from another country and explaining life in Ireland. 

Spoiler Alert:
Maura's family tree was very confusing with so many same or similar names. I've put together what I could figure out from the book (don't look at "read more" if you haven't read the book yet)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Friday, March 14, 2014

Your Life Calling by Jane Pauley

Jane Pauley, a well known television anchor and journalist has put together snippets from interviews in her book Your Life Calling Reimagining the Rest of Your Life. As baby boomers hit the retirement age many wonder, what now? As we are healthier and more energetic than previous generations, rather than retirement being the end of a career, many are reinventing themselves and becoming small business owners or working as volunteers. One man went from a partnership in a global accounting firm to becoming a volunteer EMT at the local fire station, another used his woodworking skills to make sculptures with sand. It's not so much about making a living but finding what you love to do. Some have made successful second careers such as the woman who was concerned that older people in the hospital were cold in the ill fitting hospital gowns. Without prior experience she designed wraps and shawls. Her Janska line hit a niche and became a successful business.
Jane Pauley's book will definitely make you think about what path you are on (no matter what your age).

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Pearls and Poison by Duffy Brown and Giveaway

I'm looking forward to reading the next cozy mystery in Duffy Brown's consignment shop series. Duffy Brown is offering to give away two tote bags. Send me an e-mail ( with "Win Peals and Poison Tote Bag" in the title along with your name and address and I'll add you to the drawing (using Random.Org). Deadline March 19, 2014.

pearls and poison graphic

My Project 38-001