Friday, December 16, 2011

Freebie: A Cold Creek Christmas

In my capacity as a Harlequin Ambassador, I received five copies of A Cold Creek Christmas by RaeAnne Thayne.  Just got the package today, so I can't review it yet.

Here's the back cover.

Just back from a tour of duty, all Major Brant Western wanted was a hot meal and a warm bed.  What he didn't need was the stunning socialite in disguise who'd just shown up at his family's Cold Creek ranch.  Scandal trailed bad girl Mimi Van Hoyt - aka Maura - everywhere she went.  But once Brant discovered her secret, how could he turn her away?

Being stranded in the middle of nowhere in a blizzard was not Mimi's idea of a fun time in the Tetons.  Then why was she starting to think this sexy soldier could be more than her shelter from the storm?  And the more determined Brant was to protect her and her unborn child, the more she believed that this honorable, irresistible military man was the only man for her.

OK, so a man in uniform, mountains, snow, and a baby.  What more could you ask for in a book?  lol

It looks like there are actually several books by Ms. Thayne that are set in Cold Creek, so if you like this one, there are others in the series, possibly with some of the same supporting characters.

Let me know if you think you'd like to read it.

BzzCampaign: Kroger Private Selection - dessert

I am part of the Kroger Private Selection BzzCampaign on BzzAgent, and got coupons to try several Private Selection products for free, and to purchase others at $2 off.  (I could share the coupons, too.  Anybody want one?)

In addition to the ice cream bars I've already reviewed, I picked up Northern Spy Apple Crisp, using one of the $2 off coupons.  It sounded interesting, and I wanted to try something else that wasn't ice cream.

These mini-dessert bowls come two per package, and I guess I misread the package, because I thought there were four, and was disappointed when I opened it.  At the shelf price of $4.59, these are fairly expensive desserts, and I would not ordinarily pay that much - particularly when I can get an entire apple pie for about a dollar more.  Or, you know, make one.  lol

That said, the apple crisp was really good!  The spiced apple pie filling was perfectly seasoned and the crispy topping was just the right amount of crunchy.  With a small bowl of vanilla ice cream, I think this would make a really great dessert for a single or couple who want a tasty dessert without much effort.  And if your food budget is bigger than mine, then the price is probably reasonable.

This dessert gets a thumbs up from me!

BzzCampaign: Kroger Private Selection - appetizer

I am part of the Kroger Private Selection BzzCampaign on BzzAgent, and got coupons to try several Private Selection products for free.

When I was at the grocery store the other day, one of my selections was the mini-quiche appetizer.  There are nine per package, and the shelf price was $6.79.  Under normal circumstances, I would not pay that much for an appetizer, and consider that price to be much too high for a package of nine.

My package, when I opened it today, contained only eight.  Lucky me.  lol  Had I paid for this purchase, I would complain.

I prepared the quiches as instructed on the box, and let them cool a couple of minutes.  The crusts were pretty good - flaky but not crumbly, and didn't taste floury.  A good-tasting crust is hard to make.  So, thumbs up on the crust, Kroger chefs.

As for taste, they were good, but not great, and I wasn't really impressed.  The mushroom quiches were a bit overpowering.  I think they would have tasted better had the mushroom bits been distributed into the egg mixture, rather than all sitting at the bottom.  The spinach quiches had more spinach than egg, and though I like spinach, I didn't particularly like this flavor at all.  The florentine quiche was the best of the three, with a good balance of ingredients, spiced well (as in neither bland nor heavily seasoned) and was actually the most attractive visually.

All in all, this product did not make the cut, and I am not likely to repurchase them, nor can I recommend this specific appetizer to friends or family.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Review: Aveeno Hand Cream

I have got the driest hands on the planet I think.  Not just regular dry skin, but creepy, rustling snakeskin husks on the ends of my arms.  I have found a hand lotion that is just about perfect: Aveeno Intense Relief Hand Cream.  If I use it, even just once a day, my skin doesn't get all dry and flaky and just plain gross (in my mind, anyway).  It soaks in quickly and holds up to my obsessive hand-washing habits.  It is really good stuff.  And no, I'm not getting a farthing for this, just turning you on to some fantastic hand lotion.  I wish they had it in bigger sizes so I could use it on my legs.  Yes, if a white girl's legs can be ashy, mine are.  :D

BzzCampaign: Kroger Private Selection

I got into the Kroger Private Selection BzzCampaign and got my BzzKit last week.  I was finally able to get to the store yesterday.  This not having a car thing really sucks!  My BzzKit included coupons for three free items as well as several coupons for $2 off those same items.  With the $2 off coupons at my local store, this leaves these items under $2 each.  Great deal!

Anyway, I had never been to this Kroger before, since I've only been here in the house a couple of weeks.  It was a very unfamiliar layout. 

I did manage to find the PS frozen appetizers and the frozen desserts, but this store doesn't carry the PS frozen pizza.  The manager who helped me said that this was a small store and didn't carry everything.  (I thought it was a normal sized store, so I'm afraid to see a regular store by her standards.)  I picked out my few groceries and my Private Selection items - Northern Spy Apple Crisp, ice cream bars (look at lot like Dove bars), and little tiny quiches, plus a couple of other items.  

When I got to the register, the girl had trouble ringing the coupons, and it turns out that I could not use all my PS coupons in one trip.  Talk about annoying.  The same lady manager came to the register to help and she's the one who translated the couponspeak for me, and took back the items I had chosen for which I could not use coupons on this trip.

So, Kroger wants me to try their items and review them, but won't let me buy them all in on trip.  Not very useful, guys.  And grrrr.  We can't all just bop on down to the grocery store three times a week.

I got home with the quiches, the ice cream bars and the apple crisp.  The ice cream bars are wonderful!  The chocolate coating is the right thickness and very crunchy.  I love those, and plan to use another coupon next time I'm able to get to the store, though I might have to find another Kroger.

I have tried the PS ice cream before, the actual ice cream that comes in cartons, and found it tasty.  Not as good as my favorite, but a good alternative and much less expensive, particularly at Kroger.

The Private Selection items are packaged differently, in black, and look more elegant than the traditional Kroger store brand items.  I'd like to see the PS selection include some spices, maybe, the more unique ones, and maybe things like special dips or spreads, maybe even hummus.

I'll report more after I've had a chance to try the other items!

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Strange Dreams

Lately, I've been having trouble getting to sleep before 4AM, which makes it even more difficult to actually drag my ass out of bed (or technically, recliner) when my alarm goes off at 11AM.  This morning, just before my alarm went off, I was dreaming that I was sleeping on a couch in my room, and I heard some guy talking.  This guy (his name is Andrew) pushes open my bedroom door, thinking it was someone else's bedroom.  He notices that it's not the room he thinks it is and just stands there for a moment, I guess dumbfounded.  I smile at him and tell him he can turn on the overhead light, which he tries to do, but I had turned it off at the fan when I went to bed.    Mind you, in real life, I rarely tell anyone it's OK to turn on the overhead light, and most definitely not when I am still half-asleep.  I really don't much like overhead lights, particularly the ones they put in ceiling fans.  Anyway, he comes into the room and sits on the couch in front of my legs and picks up my hands and starts playing with them absentmindedly.  And then...the alarm went off.   In my dream, I was interested in this guy almost as soon as I saw him standing in the doorway with that goofy look on his face.

I tried to go right back to sleep so I could get back into the dream and see what happens next.  Sometimes that works for me.  Definitely didn't this morning.  Ah, well.


Something I wrote as part of an application process for some online work.  If you happen to swing by and have thoughts, I'd love to hear them.  I did write this off the top of my head, with what little I know from friends and family on both sides of this fence.

Education is a hot topic for parents, today more than ever.  Public school systems come under fire for poor retention or "adjusting" test scores to garner more state and federal education money.  State and federal governments are at a loss how to fix an ailing system.

Aside from public education and charter schools, schooling at home, or home-schooling, is an option more and more parents are choosing for at least a portion of their children's education.

Home-schooling gives parents the freedom to choose classroom topics, to a great extent.  As long as the basics are covered (with quarterly to annual testing, depending on local requirements) to the state's satisfaction, home-schooling parents have the opportunity to increase the breadth of the student's learning to include religion, astronomy, philosophy, and so much more.  Such simple things as trips to the zoo can now become lessons in science or biology.  Committed parents and students can complete comparable lesson plans in half or a quarter of the time required in attending public school, leaving the remainder of the days free for other family activities.

A great deal of material is available on the internet, about home-schooling in general and including lesson plans for various subjects.  Parents on a budget can find free material, and other parents with larger budgets can buy comprehensive lesson plans for subjects with which they are unfamiliar.  Most school districts choose to offer home-schoolers inclusion in physical education activities or extracurriculars, and many areas have home-school cooperatives, where student may learn a subject or engage in sport activities together.

On the other hand, being a home-schooling parent nearly always requires that the teaching parent remain at home, so as to be available to the students during the day.  Even if the home-schooling parent works from home, rarely is the income as high as if that same parent were working a full-time job.  This lack of income can sometimes adversely affect home life, and to raise a family with only one income requires a great deal of commitment on the part of the entire family.

Public schools offer students a different socialization level, experienced teachers and a strict schedule.  Many parents prefer this for their children, and many children need the regimen to learn effectively.  It's easy to see, on a six-week schedule, how well or poorly the student is progressing, and where he or she needs help.  Students make life-long friends in public schools, and are able to participate in things like school dances and graduation events.  Many parents do not have the option to remain at home, particularly with more and more single parent families in this country.  In this case, public school or a charter school would the parent's most viable choice.

How to educate a child is one of any parent's most important priorities.  Each family must consider the options and make the choice that satisfies that family's needs in the best way possible.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Book: Effected Intent by Alan Ross

The premise of this book is a pretty good one:  bioterrorism coming from a disenfranchised segment of our own population.

Unfortunately, that's as good as it gets.  The books randomly wanders backward in time.  The "hero" of the book is primarily stuck emotionally as a teenager.  He calls the prison office manager mom, and he talks and thinks about girls like a chaste fifteen-year-old (except during the flashbacks).

The point of view changes from person to person, and without notice.  Everyone's thoughts, including a chemist and high-level alphabet agency personnel, are immature and remarkably random.  There's gratuitous sex, and by that I mean that a main character picks up a girl in a strip joint and abuses her, badly.  It's not too graphic, but it has nothing to do with the story, except to make it more obvious that the character's a bad guy.  I like sex in my books, but this was just totally unnecessary to the plot, and the scenes felt like afterthoughts.  Next time, author?  Just leave them out unless they serve a purpose.

The chemist is a Vietnam veteran, and his first experience with The Wall is poignant and touching and probably the best part of the entire book.

The case is solved, singlehandedly, by the "hero," who happens upon boxes full of current network information for a major chemical company.  Yeah, because some major American corporation is going to just print out usernames and passwords, toss the papers into boxes and send them to the recycler.  Said recycler just happens to be a prisoner who mines all that information to snoop on the company's network and outfox everybody, including a CIA agent.  I suspended my disbelief for the duration of the book, because many things were implausible, even to my non-secret-agent knowledge.

Once the case is solved and the bad guys are caught in the act, the book ends.  Fffffft!  No loose ends tied up, no resolution for any of the characters, just done.  Buh-bye.

Bottom line is, I could have enjoyed this book, and have enjoyed others which presented similar theorems.  Instead, I was relieved to get to the end of the book, so I could move on to something else.

This review was based on the Kindle edition of the book, for which I paid $0.00.