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Food, glorious food!

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Caroline James Interviews ‘The World’s Sexiest Chef’ Jean Christophe Novelli

 Caroline James visits the Novelli Academy and talks to the legendary chef/proprietor, Jean Christophe Novelli Jean Christophe, it is...

Bookshelf Reviews

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Bookshelf Reviews – with JB Johnson

  The Restaurant @ The Mill by Linn B Halton Genre: Contemporary Fiction A business opp...

People with a passion!

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A Day in the Life of…a Health Care Assistant!

A Day in the Life of...a Health Care Assistant Meet Kate Hopkins. Married mum of two daughters and a furry baby - a greyhound called Lenn...

In Search of a Happy Ending

My daughter is neglecting her kids

Q. My daughter was recently divorced from her husband of 12 years who often travels on business. They were high school sweethearts and mar...

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Trying something new … with Janice Ross!

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My daughter is neglecting her kids

Q. My daughter was recently divorced from her husband of 12 years who often travels on business. They were high school sweethearts and married young. He is a good man, but they just didn’t get along anymore. They have two children, 10 and 7, who I’m very worried about. I see them cry and act out when they are with me. It’s not just a divorce that the kids have to deal with, which is hard enough, but to make matters worse, my 35-year-old daughter seems to have reverted into a selfish child. At first she dated like a 16-year-old would, then she met a man who made things worse. He is very controlling and a negative influence on her. The kids (who sense they are unwelcome in his presence) do not like him, and neither do I or my husband. There is something very cold and unfeeling about him. I can’t figure out what she sees in him (nobody can), but he has a Svengali-like spell over her. It is causing her to be extremely selfish, neglect her children, and think the world revolves around her. She expects me to drop everything and babysit whenever she wants so she can gallivant around with this man and take romantic vacations with him. Of course I love the kids too much to turn her down, and am concerned who they’d be left with if I did. On top of everything else, she shows me no respect, gratefulness, or common courtesy and seems to think she’s entitled to everything I do for her and the children. When she was sick in the hospital recently, I was the one taking care of everyone, while her boyfriend never even came to visit her. I’ve tried to get her to seek help, but she refuses to talk to a therapist. Do you have any ideas on how I can better handle the situation?

A. I’ve noticed that many people who get married very young and then later get divorced, have a tendency to regress for a while and revert into another “childhood” of sorts, whereas people who marry at an older age are often more content with their partner because they have already sowed their oats and experienced several romantic relationships. You didn’t say how long she has been divorced, so I don’t know if you can chalk this up to such a phenomenon, but it’s an important point to keep in mind.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much room for children when one is “gallivanting” around on dates and romantic vacations, and I’m sure it is very hard on them to have a mother who is doing just that, especially when their father is often out of town. Pat yourself on the back for being such a doting and caring Grandma. You are putting the children first, which is something your daughter has not chosen to do. It’s unfortunate she has picked a man who separates her from her kids instead of sometimes including them as part of the package. It’s also quite distressing that she doesn’t think there is anything wrong with her behavior and therefore has no desire to seek help, but there is nothing you can do about that fact. Learning to deal with things that are out of your control is very difficult, but it is a necessary life lesson. Better to focus on what is in your control. As I see it, there are two things that fit the bill, and here are my suggestions.

1. Tell your daughter you cannot watch the kids whenever she wants to leave them. She is clearly taking advantage of you and it’s your right to put your foot down and let her know that you have a life, too. However, if you are worried they may not be left with a suitable babysitter, I can totally understand why you choose to be there for them. When you babysit, put a positive spin on it. Use that time with them as bonus time. Plan fun activities to do with them. Not only will they grow up knowing just how much you love them, but your home will be the safe and stable port in the storm.

2. I also think you should sit your daughter down at a time when neither of you are in a rush, both of you are calm, and no one else is around. Then approach the problem in a constructive way. That means a civil, respectful, and non-emotional discussion of what’s on your mind and what is worrying you. This is not the time to insult her boyfriend, reprimand her, or raise your voice. Approach her from a place of love. Let her know how her children are feeling, as they may not be acting that way around her. Appeal to her sense of motherhood without pointing out her deficiencies. If there’s hope for changing her ways, that discussion may be a good start. If not, then hopefully with some time she will see her boyfriend (who may just be her “transitional” man) in a realistic light and realize that not only would he be a poor stepfather, but he’d make a lousy husband, too. Good luck!

Read more advice from Bonnie HERE

If you would like Bonnie to offer some advice on your personal relationship issue, contact her at

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Trying something new … with Janice Ross!

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Amazing Montana

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Years ago, I drove through prairie landscapes and thought how boring they were. Listening to comments from people who have done similar drives, I know I’m not alone in my ignorance. But we were all so wrong! What looks at first glance like boring prairie is actually teeming with life. Let’s take a closer look at one such place I drove through last fall—eastern Montana.


Far from boring, it has beautiful scenery and dramatic weather changes. With plenty of hefty winds, storm clouds can move in abruptly. These deer sense a change coming.


On the way to Montana, next to the groomed part of a campsite at the edge of desert dotted with scruffy, prickly plants, a sign warns, “Rattlesnake Area.” The coyote catches the early morning sunshine and watches the campers from a safe distance. Perhaps his rattlesnake dinner is still digesting. I spoke to a fellow camper of my worries about the coyotes having to travel in snake country, but he told me the coyotes are adept at killing the rattlers, as long as they bide their time. At night the temperatures sink to near freezing in October. That is when the snakes are vulnerable. Their cold-blooded bodies become slow and sluggish—easy pickings for the coyotes.



What a land of plenty the U.S. is. Wild turkeys strut on the banks of the Missouri River. My first thought was, “No need to go to Safeway for turkey dinner.”  Unfortunately, there are strict  limitations on shooting them.


“Like a bird on a wire,” the sharp-tailed grouse (prairie chicken) teeters as the breeze sways the line. He doesn’t realize that his very life hangs in the balance with the hunter and his photographer wife standing below him, both wanting a shot.


Pronghorns graze like cattle on the range. Being a West Coaster, I believed that these antelopes lived only in exotic places. I was surprised to see them in Alberta a few years ago, and pleased to see my old friends again playing “Home, Home on the Range” in Montana, too.


Startled mule deer don’t know which way to go. The road was a rough four-wheel-drive dirt track which we followed in the futile hope that it would connect to another main road. It had probably been a while since these mule deer had seen a vehicle in the hills they were homesteading, hence the shocked look on their faces and their readiness to flee in two different directions.


American Paint horses look tempting to ride. They are skitterish though, and I would probably end up on the ground. I don’t think these horses get ridden much at all, but they have a nostalgic Wild West look about them.


As I sat in the truck parked beside a Russian olive tree, a robin flew in for a rest. I don’t think he expected a person to be in the cab of the truck, just three feet away, but as long as I mimicked the stalking movements of a blue heron, while reaching for my camera, he stayed long enough to pose for this photo. Pheasants also like to spend time in the Russian olive trees, not posing for photos, but eating the fruits of these trees when snow covers their usual food sources on the ground.


Who would have thought this vast expanse of flat land could hold so much life? So next time you’re passing through this Cowboy Country, “keep your eyes peeled,” and see what you’ve been missing.

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Money Matters no. 3 – Upcycling, Recycling and Reinvention!

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A Day in the Life of…a Health Care Assistant!

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A Day in the Life of…a Health Care Assistant

Meet Kate Hopkins. Married mum of two daughters and a furry baby - a greyhound called Lenny!


Kate works as a Health Care Assistant but what does that really entail?

Kate: When I arrive at work the very first thing I do is turn on the computer. Whilst that’s warming up (really – it does take a while!) I re-stock the doctors’ rooms with supplies of gloves, needles, swabs and other such things.

Then it’s back to my room to begin the first hour of clinic, usually phlebotomy; I get called a vampire most days!


The rest of my morning consists of wound dressings, healthy heart checks, injections and lifestyle advice. I also order medical supplies for the surgery.


What is the best bit about your job?

Kate: The best bit for me is the people. I have such great patients, really interesting people who tell me funny, sad, or sometimes amazing things. I’m glad to say that the people I work with are all my friends. We make a good team.

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And the worst bits?

Kate: Dealing with the smells and products that a poorly human body can produce!

heartKate checks for healthy hearts!

Was being a Health Care Assistant always your career plan?

Kate: At school I was best at English and History – I was all set to be a teacher or a journalist. How things can change! But I’m happy they have.

Which celebrity would you like to see doing your job?

Kate: Hugh Jackman. hugh

I can’t imagine that he’d be squeamish and he seems kind. I’ve LOVE to bump into him in the staffroom!

Thanks, Kate!

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Caroline James Interviews ‘The World’s Sexiest Chef’ Jean Christophe Novelli


 Caroline James visits the Novelli Academy and talks to the legendary chef/proprietor,

Jean Christophe Novelli

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Jean Christophe, it is such a great pleasure to meet you today. Can you tell me, when did you first decide that you wanted to become a chef?

I decided from a very young age that I could make money cooking for people. When I was at school, we had a summer fair and I was last to choose what I could do, so I decided to cook crepes. I ended up having the best stall and sold out within a very short time. I realised then that I could make money out of this. I was probably about 13 at the time.

You’ve been described as ‘The world’s sexiest chef’ by the New York Times, and voted as one of the ‘Top 50 Beautiful Men’ in a Sky viewer’s poll. Is it true that you make women swoon with the flick of your whisk?

Well, maybe in my younger years (laughing). Now, I try to impress people JC holding bowlwith my flavours and passion for cooking. It’s interesting, my Novelli Academy is 10 years old this year and when I first started, the place used to be filled with women and now we have about 70% men visiting us, which says a lot. Men are realising the power of cooking to impress others!

What brought you to the UK and why did you adopt it as home?

Elie de Rothschild, whom I was working with in Paris, suggested that I should expand my horizons and visit the UK. Once here, I realised the opportunities were immense and that the English were hungry for my style of cooking. I haven’t looked back since that time.

Who do you most admire in the cookery world and why?

I don’t have one particular person that I admire in the cookery world, I admire all chefs and cooks who can pass their passion onto others and if the food they produce is making people happier, what more can you say?

Who was your strongest influence in your culinary life?

As I have always said, my mother, Monique, is my biggest influence in my culinary life. Having watched her from a very young age, I instantly feel at home in any kitchen. The smells, the tasting, and seeing the results that she produced are memories that will live with me forever.


What has been your most valuable life experience?

Believe it or not, the most valuable experience in my life has been losing (having owned them) a few restaurants due to bad advice and surrounding myself with the wrong people. I have now learnt to be in control of my own destiny and trust only the people in my close vicinity. Those being my fiancée Michelle, my close friends, and my team at Novelli Academy, whom I know I can trust with my life. Having control of my own finances and knowing exactly what is going in and out of my account is very important but also helps me to keep focused on my business.

I used to live in Cumbria and notice that you have strong connections to Whitehaven and their annual festival. Why is that?

Cumbria is probably one of the most beautiful counties of Britain. It has fresh clean air and the stunning landscape is just perfect. I find the people very welcoming and hospitable, especially having made some very good friends through my friends Gerard and Dianne Richardson who live in Whitehaven. I like to meet people there during the wonderful festival and I’m demonstrating again this year, taking the cook (and friend), Rosemary Shrager with me.

Many of the visitors to Loveahapppending Lifestyle Magazine love romance stories. Are you a romantic at heart and what has been your most romantic gesture to date?

Chef AcademyI guess I am a romantic at heart. I recently asked Michelle to marry me in a castle on top of a mountain in the Austrian Alps. Luckily she said yes and so she will really feel like a princess. I can’t wait!

I love the easy-to-follow recipes and tips in your new book, Simply Novelli, what was your inspiration behind this book?

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Simply Novelli was written very quickly. From writing the first recipe to the end of the photo shoot was only 6 weeks! I wanted to explain to people in simple terms how French cooking can be made for everyday use and not just for special occasions. So many people confuse fine dining with normal meals and I wanted to show people this wasn’t necessary. Obviously there are still special occasions, where fine dining is nice, but I wanted to acknowledge the changing times these days of busy working lives and families who don’t have time to take four hours and more to prepare a meal.

I hope that everyone who has bought the book agrees. I always welcome comments on my Twitter and Facebook sites whether good or bad because you can always learn from the thoughts of other people.

The recipes look so simple to prepare in Simply Novelli – is every day French food really so easy?

What you have to remember is that French food (classics) have evolved over centuries and have changed as the produce has become available to the masses but it essentially derives from peasant food and yes it can be made easier to cook. In this age of the supermarket, produce is available all year round, and from all over the world so the opportunities have increased too.

What’s your favourite recipe in the book?

My favourite has got to be the Coq au Vin avec Chocolat. This combines the flavours of the original dish with my twist of using chocolate and vanilla as spices, just as they were meant to be centuries ago. The flavours are immense and as you will see no salt is used in either this dish or anywhere else in the book. I try to cook healthily, with reduced saturated fats and little or no salts, replacing them with sugars, spices and herbs. Try it – I’m sure you’ll agree that it works!

Do you follow a fitness routine or watch your diet?

I’m very careful of what I eat and yes I would class myself as fit. I train daily and have a gym in my barn and definitely watch what my family and I eat. No salts and low fats, which is reflected in my book. Recently, I was given the chance to ride a bike around the London Olympic Velodrome against Eddie the Eagle for Sport Relief and I trained so hard for this. I take these challenges very seriously, otherwise why compete? Since then, several other projects have emerged involving sports, which I am hoping will materialise as I love this type of challenge.

You’ve been awarded Restaurant of the Year on numerous occasions – are there any more restaurants planned?

No restaurants planned at the moment. Having learnt from my past, running a restaurant takes a lot of time and commitment and having a young family, I feel that I need to be around to help Michelle with the boys. Years ago when I was involved in restaurants my daughter Christina hardly saw me, which I always regret and don’t want to make the same mistake again, although it hasn’t hurt her career and she is now a hugely successful musician, singer and dance DJ, performing around the world in front of thousands of people.

jc photo 4Your cookery school, the Novelli Academy has been deservedly voted, ‘One of the Top Ten in the World’ by The Independent. Are there any plans to extend your cookery school abroad. If so, where and why?

I’m looking to expand the school further and having spent a lot of time in the Middle East recently we are actively looking for partners to help develop this idea. There are such incredible opportunities in places like Abu Dhabi and Dubai and the local Emirates are such keen cooks; many of the men too. I think the restaurant market there seems to be flooded, but having researched a little into that area I think an extension to my Novelli Academy would fit in perfectly.

You are so passionate about the Novelli Academy - why?


Novelli Academy

The Novelli Academy gives me the chance to be close to the people who I am really trying to impress and it gives me the chance to pass on my passion directly to my visitors. Seeing the reaction to my cooking in their faces, especially in their eyes, is very rewarding. It is based in my house, so every event is like welcoming people into my home and everyone sits in my kitchen – where I cook food for my family every day. Although it is near to Luton, when the sun shines you could be anywhere in the French countryside!

You demonstrate all over the world. What’s been your favourite show or event?

I enjoy demonstrating all over the world and it’s impossible to have a favourite place. It can be in front of a crowd of maybe 100 people in Portsmouth’s Gun Wharf Key  (as recently happened) to 25,000 people in the centre of Dubai. As long as people are enjoying what they see, smell, and taste, then I have done my job.

Jean Christophe may I thank you profusely for your time and the delicious recipe. We wish you luck with Simply Novelli and I’m sure our visitors will be racing to get their copies. I for one can highly recommend it!

Caroline thanks so much for giving me this opportunity and I hope you all enjoy reading and trying some of the dishes from Simply Novelli and remember: Enjoy entertaining your friends and family with your food…

Simply Novelli is available online and in all good book shops.

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Further information available by clicking below:

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Jean Christophe Novelli on Facebook

Jean Christophe Novelli on Twitter



Jean Christophe Novelli – Tarte Tatin with Caramel

Created by the Tatin sisters in Sologne in the 19th Century when, in a daze, Stephanie Tatin forgot to put pastry into the pan. Noticing her forgetfulness, she decided to add the pastry over the apples and bake the pie and this is the result. Hunters have since enjoyed this pie, which became known as the ‘Tarte Tatin’.

JC Tarte Tatin

Serves: 4

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 40 minutes



5 apples, peeled and halved just before using

100 g butter

200 g sugar

1 star anise

1/2 vanilla pod (halved lengthways)

6 cardamom pods

1 large pack ready-made puff pastry

JC apples in panMethod:

Preheat oven to 180c (fan), 200c (non-fan) or gas mark 6

Using a large oven-proof frying pan, gently melt the butter on a medium heat with the star anise, vanilla pod, and cardamom pods. Add the sugar and gently colour everything until pale yellow in colour.

Peel & slice the apples in half and pat dry with kitchen paper. Place neatly, face down into the pan and set aside.

Roll out the pastry into a circle, approx 28 cm in diameter and 1/2 cm thick. Carefully place the pastry over the entire pan, pressing the pastry all around the apples to form a tight seal. The apples at the edge of the pan can be lifted slightly and the pastry tucked underneath. This will avoid steaming the pastry as opposed to baking it.

Put the pan on a low heat. After a couple of minutes, lift the pan, place your hand over the pastry and, holding it tight, pour off the excess liquid. Repeat this process twice before placing the pan into the oven for approx 25 – 30 minutes. After this time, remove from the oven and leave to rest for five minutes.

To Serve:

Position a lightly oiled plate, which is larger than the pan, over the pan and turn out the tatin being careful not to spill the caramel that may still be hot. Serve with good quality, real vanilla ice cream.

This delicious recipe is from Simply Novelli

Photography by Tim Green Photography


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Foster Kids’ Responsibility and Parents’ Sanity This Summer!

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Hanging out in Porch-ville this summer? Even if you’re not, it’s a great time to get organized. If you’re a parent, it’s also a great time to combine kids’ recall capability with a sense of responsibility. Here are some ideas for getting kids of all ages involved:

Organize This

When things get out of control, whether the toy in question is a building block, a beading kit, or soccer balls, it’s usually because kids aren’t sure where things go.


  • Buy a label maker. We did this last year and it’s cut down on a lot of confusion about what toys go where. For kids that aren’t of reading age, buy del-laminating sheets and insert pictures of the type of toy you want in a specific bucket or other organizational product. Attach with velcro.
  • Make kids a part of the process. “Where do you think this should go? Okay put all your blocks, books, whatever there.” Involving them gives kids of any age ownership of the change. Involving them, at any age, will increase your chances of success.
  • Reward kids for sticking to the plan. If the kids stick to it and keep things neat, reward them with stickers, books, small toys, etc.

photo credit: JeremyOK via photopin cc

photo credit: JeremyOK via photopin cc

Read On

Books are a big deal in my house. We love our books. However, this also means that we tend to become book hoarders. This is a great time to swap out books on your kids’ shelves for new ones.


  • Make kids a part of the process. “Do you think you’ll still want to read this book, tonight? What books should we give away?”
  • Donate what you don’t need. Your local library will be happy to take any books in good condition off of your hands. Get kids involved by having them wipe hardback books with a damp cloth to prepare for donation. You can even follow the donation approach by giving away clothing or other unused items.
  • Book check out anyone? Take them to the library with you. Get them a library card and let them pick out their own books. It will help kids develop their sense of responsibility and involvement in the community.

Take Care

photo credit: Meer via photopin cc

photo credit: Meer via photopin cc

It’s not uncommon for kids, even teenagers, to think things “magically happen” around the house. Well, it’s time to dispel that myth! This is also a great opportunity to dispel gender stereotypes, but having all family members participate. Clean up, focus on once-forgotten household projects, and cultivate a garden—whatever you choose!


  • Pass the dishrag. Get a bucket with some environmentally safe soap and have kids wash down your kitchen cabinets, your porch railing, your garage…whatever. Be sure to supervise the kids at all times and get in there with them! Take care of your home and be proud in it, no matter where you live.
  • Make kids a part of the process. Are you starting to sense a trend, here? True, involving kids in final decisions isn’t always feasible, but when you can, do it. “Is there anything else we should clean? What have we missed?”
  • Reward kids for sticking to the plan. Reward them with popsicles, iTunes music, or small toys. We have dance parties at home! The neighbors love us, trust me. I try to avoid rewarding kids with food-popsicles are my only exception.

So there you have it! Some ideas that might help your kids grow into responsible adults. Plus, there’s the added benefit of calming kids and parents down. Giving kids activities that increase their contributions to the household also tire them out. So, win-win! Make way for an organized rest of 2014!

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Bookshelf Reviews – with JB Johnson

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The Restaurant @ The Mill
by Linn B Halton
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

therestaurantnew.inddA business opportunity suddenly presents itself to Hilary in the form of the very shy but very talented chef Ben. Together, the couple buy an old mill and renovate it to become a popular restaurant set in idyllic countryside. The Restaurant @ The Mill soon becomes a local meeting place. It’s a retreat for some, a meeting place for others and somewhere that many find friendship. The mill soon brings together a unique group of people each with their own story to tell. As if this wasn’t enough to make such a place special, there is a resident ghost looking in on the patrons’ personal struggles. Will the Mill change Hilary and Ben’s life too?

My Review: “I love books such as The Restaurant @ The Mill as they weave the individual stories of groups of people together in such a way that each becomes connected somehow by a common theme. The story is told through the personal accounts of the group of six couples and the reader is given a history behind their story and follows them on their journey. Some are searching for love, some are battling personal demons and others are merely searching for direction. Ben and Hilary have secrets and buried heartbreak and soon find that The Mill changes them too. This book is extremely well written and flows at a steady pace. The characters are interesting and the reader soon has an interest in what is going on for them. Many have problems that we can all relate too, thus making their stories believable. The reader becomes invested in the outcome for each character and I found myself wishing for a particular outcome for each. This is a lovely book to curl up with. I highly recommend it.”

The Star Child
By Stephanie Keyes.
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

The-Star-Child_final_Kellen St. James is a 17-year-old loner. He always has been. He has a poor, unloving relationship with his father and desperately misses his deceased mother. He feels all alone in the world but feels he doesn’t need anyone. After graduating he makes the decision to move to Ireland after he has been left his grandmother’s house in her will. Since he was a small child, Ireland has been a special place for him and the place where he first met the mysterious Calienta. He has dreamed about her every night of his life since then but who is she? Upon his return to Ireland, Kellen finds himself part of an age old Celtic prophecy and Calienta reappears in his life. Together the pair must battle faeries and gods in an attempt to save the world and fulfill the prophecy that will map out Kellen’s future. A future that includes Calienta.

My Review: “This was a great book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Being from Northern Ireland I have visited some of the places described in the book. I adore Celtic folklore and Stephanie Keyes has clearly done her research for this book. The story moves along at a pretty fast pace, which I liked. It also explores the intense feelings around first love, loss, loneliness, broken relationships and grief, all experiences which many teens may encounter at some point in their lives. However, rather than feeling sorry for himself, Kellen uses these life experiences to become a stronger, more independent person. He is mature beyond his years. Many young people might have used the sadness in their lives to follow a different path. But, not Kellen. Stephanie Keyes has created some wonderful characters in this book and a wonderful world of fantasy. There are lots of adventures and challenges in this story which lead the reader into a magical world.”

Shannons Law
By Emma Calin
Genre: Steamy Romance

shannons lawShannon Aguerri is a tough inner city cop who has been transferred to a local village and is now the village bobby. Shannon is unlike anything the villagers have ever seen and they are unsure of what to think of her at first. She soon becomes a part of village life. Yes, some of her methods are unconventional and she might be a bit gobby, but Shannon soon falls into her role – and into the arms of an Earl! A very sexy Earl! And she falls hard. Throw into the mix a dead girl, drugs and possibly human trafficking AND a rival for the Earl’s affections and Shannon soon begins to wonder if she is out of her depth.

My Review: “Shannon’s law is fast paced from start to finish. Shannon is a strong-willed female character and takes no nonsense from anyone. She is tough but fair and I liked that side of her. We get to see her vulnerable side where the Earl is concerned and she is unsure of her place in his world. At the heart of the book is a love story between two very different people who society would not expect to be together. There are some very, very, racy sex scenes in the book which are quite explicit and had me heading for a cold shower! An enjoyable read.”

How do You Voodoo?
By Janice Horton
Genre: Romantic Comedy Novella

How Do You Voodoo CoverLoveless fashion model Nola Nichols thinks being beautiful is a curse; that is until she is cursed and her looks begin to fade just a week before the most important photo shoot of her career. In her attempts to get uncursed she finds herself taking part in a rather unconventional funeral, involved in a voodoo ritual, reveals one or two unrests in her own past and falls madly in love with a doctor. Erm, that would be a witch doctor, right…? How Do You Voodoo? is the first novella in Janice Horton’s Voodoo Romance Series. The second and third books in this series are ‘Voodoo Wedding’ and ‘Voodoo Child’.

My Review: “Nola is a top model. She has everything going for her but unfortunately beauty on the outside does not equate to beauty on the inside and Nola’s priorities are slightly skewed. However, on a flight back from Barbados, Nola’s life is about to take on a staggering transformation thanks to a mambo or voodoo priestess she has inadvertently upset. Can Nola really break the curse and get her life back on track? There’s everything at stake here, including a top modelling job. But as Nola soon begins to realise, she has forgotten what the really important things in life are and what her humble beginnings were. Meeting Louis soon changes her thinking but is it enough to fix her life in time? This was such a fun read but with a serious message throughout. Nola’s lessons throughout the book are lessons for the reader too. The story has just the right sprinkling of romance and humour that doesn’t detract from the underlying message.”

Learning to Love
By Sheryl Browne
Genre: Romantic Comedy

learning to loveDoctor David Adams has moved into the quiet village of Hibberton with his young son. Dr Adams appears to be a deep and moody character beneath his sexy good looks. He has moved opposite Andrea Kelly who isn’t that keen on the good doctor. She’s worried about his son, who appears less than happy in the company of his father. Andrea herself however doesn’t have an ideal home situation either. She is juggling a teaching career, caring for her family, which includes her mother, and a less than supportive man! Andrea wants to find some time for herself and that means a career change. However, that’s not going to be an easy dream to achieve. Circumstances conspire to make life as difficult as possible for Andrea and she and her family find themselves having to rely on Doctor Adams when their house burns down. Is the dishy doctor all he seems?

My Review: “Yet again Sheryl Browne has penned another hit book. The characters in the book are all so likable, particularly Andrea’s mum whom I just loved! Some of her one-liners had me laughing out loud and the dynamics within Andrea’s family are hugely entertaining. The family dynamics and the interaction between characters make this such a good story. It’s a book about love, fear and trust. It’s about making that leap and taking a chance on another person when you are so afraid of a broken heart. Andrea is a strong character who is doing what lots of women do and try to multi-task to superhuman levels! This book contains that magic mix of ingredients for a good rom-com – fun, laughter, romance, love, passion and that feel-good factor! I couldn’t help but swoon after the hunky doctor and some parts of the book left my pulse racing just a little! This book will have you smiling, grinning big soppy grins, going all mushy, gasping and laughing your socks off.”

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Kim Nash says … Welcome to the Maldives!

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Maldives 2 (1) When the only way off the airport island is by sea-plane or boat, you know you are seriously in the middle of nowhere. Well, not actually the middle of nowhere, but specifically in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Where the water is both turquoise yet transparent, where the sand is soft, white and powdery. Where the only sound is the lapping of the gentle waves on the shore and swishing leaves of the palm trees. Oh, and the clink of ice in your gin and tonic!

Welcome to the Maldives. The word “Maldives” means “The islands (dives) of Malé”.

In total, there are around 1190 of these stunning islands of which 200 are inhabited, and 105 are resort islands and these are otherwise known as the “no news no shoes” islands. Not much matters there apart from when happy hour is so you can watch  one of the most glorious sunsets you could ever imagine seeing.

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Some people think that there’s not much to do on islands that you can walk around in less than half an hour. But you can lose yourself for hours on end, snorkeling with vibrantly coloured tropical fish such as parrotfish, snappers, jacks and sweetlips, or for those that are even more adventurous, you can try deep sea diving around caves, caverns, and coral reefs. If you’re lucky, you’ll swim with and experience tuna, trevallies, unicornfish, snappers, triggerfish, eagle rays, manta rays and groupers as well as plenty of varieties of sharks. The Maldives is one of the most sought after dive areas of the world along with the Great Barrier Reef and the Red Sea.

Maldivian waters are home to 1100 species of fish, 5 species of sea turtles, 21 species of whales and dolphins, 187 species of corals, 400 species of molluscs, and 83 species of echinoderms. Many crustacean species are there as well: 120 copepod and 15 amphipod, as well as over 145 crab and 48 shrimp species, so now perhaps you can understand why diving is such a popular activity.

There are also well over 100 species of birds which can be found, including parakeets and parrots. Fruit bats fly around freely too, but are not at all harmful.

Or, if water sports are your thing, there are organised surf cruises or even energetic water sports such as jet-skiing, wind-surfing, waterskiing, kitesurfing, kayaking or parasailing. Or you might choose to just chill out and sunbathe or spend time in one of the many spas. March,  the hottest month of the year, sees temperatures ranging from an average temperature of 29°C (84°F) and the coldest is January at a chilly (yeah right!) 27°C (81°F), with the most daily sunshine hours at 10 in February. September is the wettest month of the year with an average of 243 mm of rain. The best month to swim in the sea is  April when the average sea temperature is 30°C (86°F). Certainly acceptable, don’t you think!

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Male, is the capital and most populated island of the Maldives and the central harbour and port is located there. It’s well worth a visit to Male which will seem a world apart from the tiny tourist islands.

There is a wide variety of tourist islands to choose from, some incredible places with spas and water bungalows and private beaches. That decision we’ll leave to you, but if you are looking for a holiday in an incredibly stunning location, at least now you know a little more about the beauty that you will find in the Maldives.

Kim Nash is also a Lifestyle book reviewer. You can find her at:

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Twitter: @KimTheBookworm

A Recipe for Bratwursts


Once upon a time I liked children.

These days I think that I would stick Jack’s beanstalk down his precocious selfish thieving throat and vote for the Giant Independence Party. Here is the question. Have we created a society of utter brats? Is it permissible to suggest such a thing? Are there social workers strapping on their armoured sandals to storm my door for raising the issue?

Of course, my own brats were perfect. They were grateful for their daily bowls of gruel which I dispensed once they had completed their wood chopping and house cleaning duties. Yet, over the past couple of years I have encountered a range of younger children. Let me select the top five sausages from my string of bratwursts.

* Bratwurst One Star: Male aged five years. Comes to my home regularly. Runs about uncontrollably and refuses to accept any instruction. Punches older sister in face, no concept of table manners and has to be prompted for please and thank-yous. Has taken to carrying a tablet computer. He is generally regarded as charming and spirited. Mother does not wish to crush his creativity. He will converse and discuss issues. Responds to being told to be quiet. Basically a straightforward naughty boy who needs to know that hitting others can incur reaction…..

**Bratwurst Two Stars: Male aged ten years. Visited my home with middle/upper class mother. Immediately began opening drawers and cupboards demanding that mother stop her fatuous conversation with me and hand out food items he had spotted. She obliged indulgently. For the rest of her stay the little dear demanded food and more food. Unwilling to converse sensibly. The monster was significantly overweight and grizzled until piggy-backed over the course of a mile walk. Mother had new macho partner who was keen to impress. He suffered a seizure a short while later. I believe there is currently a vacancy.

It's your fault for having me! (photo courtesy Daily Telegraph)

“It’s your fault for having me!” (photo courtesy Daily Telegraph)

***Bratwurst Three Stars: Male aged eight years. Came for lunch with his family. Refused to take place at table. Father informed me I was being too old-fashioned and formal in expecting him to sit for family meals. Child ran through house out of back door into garden and back through front door in an endless circuit throughout meal. Parents tempted him with menu choices as he ran past. Items snatched or rejected without acknowledgement. After the meal I pretended to be a nice lady and asked the lad what he liked to do. He did not answer. ( His father explained this as an independent policy decision). His mother said he wanted to be a singer. I grasped the chance to ask him what music he liked. The boy immediately went into a wailing tantrum because his mother had given information about him. They left soon after. No invitation or Christmas cards from parents since…….

****Bratwurst Four Stars: Female aged eleven years. Visits about twice a year. Enters house, refuses to say hello. These days has tablet computer which accompanies her constantly and serves as a place mat at meal times. Refuses to stop video game during meal. Whispers her endless requests for food and entertainment to parents. Has to receive menu options but refuses dish when served. Selects from several boxes of cereals, pours on milk and then demands alternative dish. Places hands over parents mouths if they are engaged in conversations she does not wish. Tantrums if parent wishes to continue conversation with adult. A grossly overweight child she demands a diet of sweets and specifies the required brand. Has been a talentless beginner with her flute for several years. Produces instrument at meals both in the house and in restaurants. Parents request silence while she performs her tuneless repertoire.

Do parents really think like these little monsters?

Do parents really think we should put up with these little monsters?

*****Bratwurst Five Stars: Male aged eight years. Arrived at my home with parents. Gave me a look of angry contempt and pushed past me into my house. Went to kitchen and saw packets of crisps in cupboard. Selected Ketchup flavour and complained to mother that I didn’t really stock his preferred brand. Found beach tennis set in garage without permission and decided to play squash against my kitchen windows. Threw tantrum when asked to stop. Decided to climb internal wall of house using central heating pipe as a step. An overweight child, he demanded food more or less constantly. Parents believed he suffers from anger management issues prompted by hunger. Cakes, crisps, and sweets are carried at all times to placate tantrums. Half an hour before going to restaurant demanded food. Mother gave two bags of crisps and a banana. In restaurant demanded large pizza. Told mother he could not wait for food. Threw tantrum and banged head on table shouting “I won’t wait. I want food now!” Mother asked me to order him a special starter for immediate consumption. I refused. On arrival the pizza was eaten by hand with much fun stretching mozzarella strings between arms held above his head. In the end he ate about half of it. This child essentially refused to acknowledge me and had no concept of please or thank you. Ate with fingers and smeared hands on walls. Regarded all my possessions as his. Opened drawers and cupboards at will. Mother informed me that one had to be patient and understanding in dealing with him. He gains my five-star rating because the entire lives of his parents revolve around his satisfaction. They live in fear of his tantrums. No activity or game can take place without his consent. Mother considered having another child. Consultation process with brat carried out and permission was denied.

The sad thing is I actually believe I am completely isolated and out of step with society by expressing my dismay at this kind of behaviour. I should be embracing and celebrating the liberation of children from the constraints of discipline and subservience. I should be rejoicing in the opportunities that parents now have to build consensual problem-solving relationships with their children. Oooh – I can sound quite educated, modern and up myself, can’t I.

What I really think is that these brats are some of the least happy people I have ever met. Only their parents are less happy. They have bought into some false ideal of creating wonderful successful children who will love them and whom the whole world will admire. The truth is that in a peer group of self-centered tyrants, no one will be capable of offering genuine friendship or be prepared to acknowledge all that beauty, genius, and superiority their parents have developed in them. My guess is that these weary parents know it’s all gone wrong and need thick-skinned old crows like me to say what they cannot and dare not.

Finally let me say that I have only dealt with five close encounters of the brat kind in this feature. During the period I have had seven experiences. Two sisters aged ten and eight have also come into my orbit. They were sensible, well behaved, and happy. As far as I could tell their parents had never read any kind of child guidance book. They too were sensible and happy.

My Little Angels

My own Little Angels

So what is the situation? Has a middle class generation fallen for the king’s new clothes story? Is the king naked and smeared in bratwurst? Have we said No to No and thereby Yes to the tyranny of those who need our guidance most?


Emma Calin was born in London in 1962. She currently lives part of the year in the UK and spends the rest in France.  She has been writing since childhood and has won numerous local, national, and international prizes for poetry and short stories.

Emma enjoys writing love stories firmly rooted in social realism.  She blogs about the contrasts in life on both sides of the English Channel, which she likes to explore on her tandem whenever weather and fitness coincide. She is a Lifestyle Contributor on Loveahappyending Lifestyle.

She defines herself as woman eternally pedalling between Peckham and Pigalle, in search of passion and enduring romance.

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For books by Emma Calin: Amazon USA  Amazon UK
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The Film Fatales tackle a double feature: Words and Pictures and The Fault in Our Stars

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(c) Latitude Productions

(c) Latitude Productions

Words and Pictures.
2013. 111 minutes.
Starring Clive Owen, Juliette Binoche,
Bruce Davison,
Valerie Tian
, and Amy Brenneman.

An art instructor and an English teacher form a rivalry that ends up with a competition at their school in which students decide whether words or pictures are more important. (IMDb)

elizabeth: I have to say that when I saw the trailer of Words and Pictures I got all giddy. A movie for adults, starring adults, and telling a story about adults. Who would have thought it was possible? No car chases, no Tom Cruise trying to be an actor, nothing blowing up, no men in tights, and just the right number of obscenities carefully placed into the dialogue. I nearly fainted. But I have been fooled before – sucked into thinking this could be a movie that tells a story about two people who have not seen their twenties for a couple of decades. (Hmm…now that I write that.) No, I am here to say that this movie was a joy to watch. I was happy to see two imperfect souls up on the screen who made me believe again and that some of us are not dead…yet.

What is more important: words or pictures? As a writer and an artist, this whole notion appealed to me. How the students prepared their creative arguments made me long to be part of the debate. But I already knew my answer. I liked how this movie was about love (what a concept) – love of the printed word, the brush strokes that bring a vision to life, and the love story of a man and a woman.

Nicole: Well, I won’t be accused of being the only romantic sap in this duo any longer. No way. No how. I hate to do it, but I agree with you. I sat thoroughly engrossed by this film, enjoying it like a really wonderful symposium given by learned and cultured artists who had wisdom to impart. I felt a kinship with these characters, mainly with Clive Owen’s Jack Marcus, because he is a man of words, but also with Juliette Binoche’s Dina Delsanto, because she spoke to the artist who lies deep within me and strives to reach the surface. I came away feeling inspired…awakened…and wanting more.

elizabeth: I think English teacher Jack and art instructor Dina made for great sparring partners on the screen. Both came in with something huge that was blocking their happiness and it wasn’t the other that was going to make it all better. I related so much to Delsanto’s condition, since it reminded me of my own, and she was definitely the sympathetic one. She was a fighter and then there was Owens’ Jack, who could be so powerful and passionate in his delivery of his words that I did not want him to stop. He is quite easy on the eyes, too. But at other times I was a little disappointed when it seemed he was reading off a teleprompter. Or was his inner demon killing him slowly? Acting or the bottle? I am not sure.

Nicole: I think those moments you’re referring to were in direct correlation to his alcohol dependency issues. And, I suppose the fact that Jack is an alcoholic is a bit of a cliché – so many famous writers suffer the same lot. The other cliché, Jack and Dina hate each other—but end up falling hard for one another, is anything but original. But, hey, it’s a well-used cliché for a reason. Audiences love a passionate couple who overcome their initial disgust for one another to find love. (Calling Lizzie Bennett and Mr. Darcy…)

elizabeth: All in all, this was a very enjoyable 111 minutes. I would love to see more movies like this. It is nice to see ourselves up there and not wearing sensible shoes, being coiffed to death, or killed off in the first scene. I don’t know who those people are. We are strong vital people who are still sexy and can teach a thing or two about living fully.

Nicole: Amen!


(c) Temple Hill Entertainment

(c) Temple Hill Entertainment

The Fault in Our Stars.
Rated PG-13. 125 minutes.
Starring Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort,
Willem Defoe, and Laura Dern.

Hazel and Gus are two teenagers who share an acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional, and a love that sweeps them on a journey. Their relationship is all the more miraculous given that Hazel’s other constant companion is an oxygen tank, Gus jokes about his prosthetic leg, and they met and fell in love at a cancer support group. [IMDb]

Nicole: Elizabeth can attest that for about 80% of this movie I was a slobbering mess and a distinct displeasure to be seated next to. After all, I knew this would happen; I couldn’t make it through the trailer without bawling like a maniac. I was miserable afterward, too; unable to shake the emotions and my eyes were puffy for a solid day and a half. That being said, I want to stress that this is a terrific movie, filled with wonderful performances, which should be seen. Just have plenty of tissues on hand…and chocolate. You’ll need lots of chocolate.

elizabeth: I have to say that I wanted to see this movie, but had reservations since it is about two teens and I wondered if the people involved could make a movie about two teens relevant to all who come to sit in the dark for over two hours. They did. The storyline is just miserable. It makes you think about how unfair life is. But then you witness the love of life that Hazel (Woodley) and Gus (Elgort) have and you realize this is life. It is not always fair, but we are here for only a blink of the eye, so what would you do if you knew that life could end before the next sunrise? Most people live like they have time to do everything – thus the stupid bucket list came to life. Don’t make a damn list. Just do it. For the record, I did tear up a little. But I get it – this is life. Life sucks sometimes. Who says we get 80-plus years? Plus, I had to keep an eye on Nicole. I was afraid I was going to have to call for backup.

Nicole: Backup would have been nice; I needed to be mopped up off the floor. For the record: Hazel has cancer. Hazel is terminal stage 4. And, her odds are anything but good. This is not the feel-good movie of the year. Things in Hazel’s emotional life improve dramatically when she meets Gus, who despite losing his leg to the cancer, retains a thoroughly infectious positive outlook on life. Gus, who is in remission, shows Hazel how to grab the most out of life with what little time they’re given…and thus they fall in love so sweetly that it will melt your heart. I will leave it there, because if you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, you should let this movie happen to you. It should make you angry. It should make you sad. It should make you think. It should make you re-evaluate life. And, it should make you count your blessings. There’s no telling the amount of emotion you’ll feel watching this movie – but you will be made better for having seen it. OK? OK.

elizabeth: Besides all the messages that run through this movie, it is well-written and well-acted. Kudos to author John Green for such a tender storyline that really did come to life thanks to all who took a chance and starred in this movie. I was so impressed with Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort. Two young actors who really brought home the message of the movie. I just hope that they continue to get scripts like this. I am begging them to not appear in Porkys #48. Bring tissues? Yes. But also know that this is a celebration of life. As Auntie Mame once declared: “Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!” I believe Hazel and Gus would concur.

Brought to you by: Film Fatales


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Keeping a journal is as much a part of many people’s day as getting up in the morning. It’s known to be cathartic, rewarding, and a motivating strategy to help work through whatever issues might be on your mind.

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” ~ William Wordsworth

I admire people who are committed to journaling for whatever the purpose in their life. For some, there may be a specific goal they wish to achieve; one that may not always be easy or pleasant. For others, the incentive may be to reflect, to preserve memories, or to savor the pure pleasure of written expression.

For whatever reason, written journaling has simply never worked for me. At least, not since I had my little blue-leather diary with the intriguing gold lock and key when I was eight years old. I stored my deep thoughts away … whatever they were at that age … until I lost the key.

There have been times on certain travels when I’ve been motivated to keep a book of notes about favorite restaurants, unique places visited or experiences with people who came along. A camera has always been my constant companion.

Obviously, all of the photographs I was taking were journals in themselves and I was happy with that. I’ve been chronicling my life in this manner since I received my first Kodak Brownie camera on my sixth birthday and even more so after I became a young adult and began to travel, raise a family, and live life … as we do.

Then came digital photography … ohhh là là!1.IMG_2348

Taking photos became easier and more convenient, allowing creativity and experimentation to flourish.

Then came cellphones with cameras … ohhh là là, even more.

In spite of my initial abhorrence of the concept of this ubiquitous appendage, I gradually succumbed. The ability to be always in touch for the needs of ageing parents and increasing number of grandchildren, made me a convert.

After a while I became aware that I was taking different kinds of shots with my phone. I still used my trusty Canon SLR for special occasions or traveling, but the photos I was taking with my phone were in a category of their own.

canstockphoto17712799Then I had what might be called one of those “Eureka!” moments.

I decided to open a separate album within my photo library and call it my Gratitude Journal. For some reason, choosing just one or two images every few days that expressed my gratefulness about life became an extremely meaningful exercise.

I want to share this possibility with you.

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

 There are times when I photograph items I want to retain because they hold good memories. However, I know they are: (a) simply going to get lost within a vast collection of treasures, or (b)  meaningful visuals that can only be captured as photos. For example: tickets to the theatre, or concerts, or sporting events; a special greeting card; a wine label; a puddle with a child’s feet in it; a great menu; a snowfall or a rainbow; a delicious dessert; a beautiful flower; airline boarding pass; train tickets, or street signs. You get my drift, I’m sure.

 “Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot” ~Hausa Proverb

So true! The shots I put in this gratitude album are not the ones of family and friends and vacations or celebrations (they go into the standard albums that are treasured and enjoyed), but rather unique and distinctive images that give me pleasure to remember with thanks. Of course, from time to time there will be a person, known or unknown included. It’s the thought that counts.

Is photography a hobby or interest of yours? If so, you might want to consider beginning a journal using some of your shots. Even if you don’t consider yourself a photographer, you may be surprised at how you respond to this. With computer software these days and the incredible quality of photos taken with smartphones, it’s easy to find images that appeal to you to capture digitally and store.

Needless to say, if you want to have even more fun with your Gratitude Photo Journal … there’s an APP for that! I discovered the Happy Tapper Gratitude Journal ($.99 on iTunes) app on iTunes and have had a lot of fun adding a few words of text when I upload my chosen photo. Another similar app is Gratitude 365 ($1.99 on iTunes).

Not to be confused with the latter, is the site for the inspiring 365 Grateful – A Photography Project. There you will find a heartwarming video about one person’s experience with this concept of photo journaling and how the idea captured the imagination of many. You may want to join in yourself!

Although these apps encourage you to enter a photo daily, don’t feel you need to do that. Make an entry when the urge strikes or the image is irresistible. Use your journal in a way that works for you and brings you satisfaction.

It’s not as if I didn’t have an attitude of gratitude before, or wasn’t counting my blessings, because I’ve always lived my life in that frame of mind. Keeping this kind of journal has simply enhanced those thoughts, and brings great pleasure and frequently laughter, as I sift through the images from time to time.


Expressing your feelings of thankfulness through these visuals is a great way to interest your children or grandchildren to do the same. I’ve found the responses from our family to be extremely positive, as the variety and quirkiness of images causes people to think outside the box as to what makes their life satisfying.

Have fun. Be selective. Be you. Give thanks.


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Good manners for all occasions – great advice for writers!

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Find out more about Anneli:

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Is my boyfriend a cad?


Q. I’m 24 and have been seeing a man I really like for the last few months. I met him at a singles’ party. He’s 27, good looking, smart, and I have a good time when I’m with him. I assumed because he went to this party that he was looking for a relationship, but there’s a problem. He isn’t very reliable. He’s canceled dates last minute, forgotten to call me when he says he will, and doesn’t always ask me out on weekends. My friends say that he’s probably seeing other women, but we’ve already been intimate and I really didn’t think he was the type to sleep around. I’m not sure what the best way to handle this is, but I’m tired of waiting by the phone and not knowing if or when I’ll have plans with him. I’m not comfortable with confrontation, so what do you think is the best way to find out whether he’s playing the field or if he’s just not the responsible type? Should I be checking his phone texts when he showers, like my friend suggested? Or follow him to see where he goes when he cancels on me? I would hate to have to do either. Would love your advice on this.


A. You bring up a slew of concerns so I’ll address each one independently.

1. Just because you attend a singles’ party, doesn’t mean you are serious about finding a relationship. He could have gone for countless other reasons. Some people use those parties as merely another conduit for meeting people or socializing.

2. I know it’s not easy to find a man you really enjoy being with, but that’s not an excuse to accept bad behavior from him. Canceling dates last minute, leaving you hanging by the phone, and not making weekend plans with you are not the signs of a thoughtful man who wants a steady, solid, and honest relationship. These are the signs of an immature and selfish man who hasn’t learned the proper way to treat people.

3. If you want to know where someone is coming from (i.e. if he’s dating others), you cannot be afraid of confrontation. Confrontation doesn’t have to be dramatic. It can be as simple as asking the important questions—and that should be done before you become sexually involved. You cannot just assume that he’s being monogamous unless he tells you he is, and plans to be, while you are together. That said, since you are already sleeping with him, you have the right to know if he’s engaging in sex with others. The way to find out is NOT to snoop in his personal things or to stalk him. The way to find out is to ASK him. If you have a strong sense that he’s lying to you, then it’s time to say good-bye.

4. If you find out he’s not seeing others and may just be spending time with friends or family, there is still a rather large problem: his inconsiderate nature. If you don’t demand that men treat you with respect and thoughtfulness, you could easily end up with a cad who throws crumbs to you when it suits him. Is that really what you want in a partner? I doubt it. If I were you I’d ditch this guy like yesterday’s rubbish and move on knowing that I didn’t settle for less than I deserve or let someone else define my self-worth. If you’re not ready to give him up, then I strongly suggest you have that important conversation and share your feelings and concerns with him. If he truly cares about you, there’s always a chance he may learn the error of his ways and make some drastic, positive changes. If he doesn’t, then you have your answers loud and clear.

Read more advice from Bonnie HERE

If you would like Bonnie to offer some advice on your personal relationship issue, contact her at

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Bookshelf Reviews – with Heidi Bartlett

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by Bonnie Trachtenberg
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Wedlocked a novelOn what should be the happiest day of her life, Rebecca Ross is panic stricken. Rebecca has just wed Craig Jacobs, but she realizes she put more thought into choosing her florist than she did in choosing the man she’s just pledged to love for the rest of her life. Before Craig, Rebecca, a talented Long Island girl, dreamed of following in her grandmother’s footsteps with an acting career. Unfortunately, she was cut down to size by years of disappointment, and by her first love—a Hollywood director. She returned to Long Island a lost and broken woman, and ended up in the last place she ever wanted: her old bedroom at her parents’ house.

My review: “I really liked the uniqueness of the storyline. Poor Rebecca, her life really has been a string of bad happenings and misfortunes. Although I found it slow-paced in places, I loved the chapters describing her acting “career”. Getting a behind-the-scenes look was entertaining and informative alike. This book is all about attracting a string of Mr Wrong’s. Can there finally be a Mr Right after one failed relationship after the other or does Rebecca have to put up with an unhappy marriage?”


The Promise of Provence
by Patricia Sands
Genre: Contemporary Fiction


June in Provence is full of promise when Katherine arrives from Canada, eager to feel renewed by her surroundings. Endless rows of lavender prepare to burst into pink and purple blooms. Fields of sunflowers flow in golden waves among vineyards and olive groves. Ancient hilltop villages beckon. It’s the postcard setting she envisioned, but is that all she needs?

My Review: “I really loved the idea that The Promise of Provence explores the life of an “older” person and not someone in their twenties or thirties that you encounter in most books. Although Katherine is young at heart, I had to keep reminding myself that she faces completely different obstacles than a younger person would. The Promise of Provence evoked a feeling of wanderlust in me. I always wanted to visit France, but even more so now after reading about this breathtaking and beautiful region in this book.”


Made in Nashville
by Mandy Baggot
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Made in Nashville

An on-stage attack left Honor Blackwood with more scars than just the one on her face. It’s been ten years since she left her spot as Nashville’s brightest country music star. Is now the time to return? Country rebel and rock star, Jared ‘Jed’ Marshall is hot property on the Tennessee music scene in more ways than one. He’s wild, he’s sexy and everybody wants a piece of him. But when he sets his sights on Honor, is it pure attraction or just distraction on his mind? Join the country scene to find out!

My Review: “Made in Nashville is such a heart-warming, incredibly sweet and romantic novel showcasing the American country music circuit. Seeing both Jared and Honor grow during the story was amazing. Their relationship is so true, honest, sexy and romantic. Mandy couldn’t have created better heroes/heroines in this book. The storyline is not just about their feelings for each other, but it goes so much deeper than that, touching on trust issues and insecurities and there is also a hint of mystery. I can honestly say that Made in Nashville is my most favourite Mandy Baggot book so far and I have no doubt that it will appear on my 2014 top reads list at the end of the year!”


Forever: (Angels Among Us, Book 3)
by Linn B Halton
Genre: Paranormal Romance Novella


Ceri is alone for a reason. She’s not meant to fall in love. She’s here for one purpose only. Love is a powerful emotion, but can it change the course of someone’s destiny? This is a romance story that explores the possibility of there being something more than just the ‘here and now’. Now, Ceri’s journey comes to an end in Forever – the final part of the Angels Among Us trilogy.

My Review: “This part of the series has been an emotional rollercoaster, even more so than the other two parts. There was just no way of guessing which way Ceri’s and Alex’s relationship would take. Can love overpower even fate and destiny? Ceri’s spiritual aspect plays a huge part in Forever. I am a complete novice when it comes to psychic powers etc. and don’t know an awful lot about this at all, but although the spiritual element features so heavily in this book, it is by no means overpowering! Linn’s ability to portray a certain feeling of “calmness” onto the reader is truly awe-inspiring. The ending is a real shocker for me (but in a good way, if this makes sense :-)).”


Somebody to Love
by Sheryl Browne
Genre: Contemporary Romance

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After that idiot of a husband ran off with that broomstick of a girl, single-mom Donna thinks there’s no sunshine in her future. What she needs now is a hunk of a guy who loves her and her three-legged dog with no complications. Solution? Call the police. Mark is a single dad with two big worries – protect and serve, and his autistic son Karl. Desperately he wants someone who’ll love him and his son without question and with no complications. He’s been hurt before and Karl needs stability – not short dates. So he’ll do anything for his kid – even lie to protect him. Can these two get it together and get together? Is Mark the hunk Donna needs? Is Donna the rock Mark can lean on? If they look hard enough, they’ll find Somebody to Love.

My Review: “I love the very cleverly chosen title of this book. In the end, isn’t this what everyone wants – Somebody to Love? I’ve read a few of Sheryl’s other book and couldn’t wait to delve into this one. Mark and Donna are both such brilliant characters! Each of them is extremely lovable in their own way. In this book, Sheryl explores the ups and downs of new relationships. Phew! Luckily there are more ups than downs :-). I love Sheryl’s sense of humour. There were so many paragraphs that had me laughing out loud. Somebody to Love is a fearless and humorous spin on a topic that (pretty much) everyone can identify with. I am looking forward to reading more of Sheryl’s writing.”

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The LLm writing competition winning entry!

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Margarita originally posted this article here, if you would like to check out some of the interesting feedback she received.

I Love Paris in the Springtime

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Truth be told, I love Paris any time. There’s so much to see and do. It’s an easy city to get around in. The Metro system is amazing. I do recommend buying your metro passes online and having them delivered to your hotel. We used In addition to metro passes they have a variety of other tickets you can buy should you be interested.


Arc de Triomphe at the top of the Champs-Élysées

Did you know that if you stand so that you’re lined up so that your back is to in the middle of the Arc de Triomphe or in the centre of one of the pedestrian islands in the Champs-Élysées, you’re perfectly lined up with the Obelisque in Place de la Concorde and the centre arch in the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel near the Louvre? If you face the opposite direction, La Defense is lined up perfectly through the Arc de Triomphe.


Replica of the Statue of Liberty on Île aux Cygnes

A man-made island in the Seine, built in the early 1800s, stretches from Pont de Bir Hakeim to Pont de Grenelle is home to a replica of the Statue of Liberty. This 1/4 scale statue stands at the Pont de Grenelle end of the island. A tree-lined path runs the length of the island and there are benches so you can sit and watch the world go by.


Palais du Luxembourg

Speaking of sitting and watching the world go by, a beautiful place for such a thing is at the Jardin du Luxembourg. The Palais du Luxembourg makes the perfect backdrop to this wonderful place to sit by a fountain, wander the pathways, admire the statues and the flowers. The beds here are filled with an array of blooms and colours.


Opera Garnier

Opera Garnier features in the 1910 Gaston Leroux novel Phantom of the Opera. Subsequent adaptations for film have made this opera house a symbol of Paris. Because of the high ground water levels during the building’s construction a cistern had to be built to contain the water. This led to the rumour that the opera house was built over an underground lake and Leroux incorporated the idea into his novel.


Eiffel Tower from Pont de Bir Hakeim

No trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to the Eiffel Tower. Believe it or not, the tower isn’t visible from everywhere in the city. If you’re planning on going up the tower, you can take the stairs to the second level (if you’re of hardy stock and well fit) or take the lift.

Here are some interesting tidbits about the tower named after Gustave Eiffel.

There are 1665 steps in the east staircase.

It took 2 years, 2 months and 5 days to build.

Only one person died during its construction.

The official opening was on May 6, 1889.

It was only supposed to stand for 20 years. It was to be dismantled in 1909.

During the planning for Expo ’67 in Montreal, it was mentioned in passing that the Eiffel Tower should be taken down and shipped to Canada to be erected at the French Pavillion. what started out as a joke soon became serious, although it never happened.

Like in any large city, you have to be aware of your surroundings. There are street traders near the busier venues – the Louvre, Cathedral Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower – all trying to sell you their trinkets. Some can be quite aggressive and don’t like to take no for an answer. Best advice here, don’t make eye contact or show any interest and keep on walking. The Paris pickpockets are fast and employ a number of schemes to catch you off-guard. Don’t carry your passports or a lot of cash when you’re out and keep your wallet in a safe place such as a zipped inner breast pocket of your jacket, a front pocket of your trousers  (and if it has a zipper closure even better). Most hotel rooms have a safe in them so leave your valuables there. But most importantly have fun.

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Available for purchase from 4RV Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and bricks ‘n mortar locations.



Your home is your castle … create an inspiring setting!

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If you de-clutter your home to a level YOU are comfortable with, then you can create rooms that are a pleasure to relax in. On a practical level, it’s also much easier to find things if you have some semblance of order. The two rules I live by, are:

Home – MUST be easy to clean, easy to maintain and look good with minimal effort
Ambience – MUST create an inspiring setting in which to live, work, and relax

A little bit of luxury! Your bedroom is your haven, the place you can lie back and luxuriate in a setting that you might see in a magazine. Creating that isn’t difficult, needn’t cost the earth and will ensure you feel even more decadent when you do (finally) have the chance of a treasured lie-in. And, of course, it’s romantic …

The rule: no clutter, a place for everything (or take it to the charity shop) and light and bright colours – keep it simple. How to make your bed look luxurious:


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Use a blanket box, small seat (as shown above), or bench at the bottom of the bed (or against a wall if there isn’t room) to stack the spare pillows at night.

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1. Double-layer your bed

Padded throws and accessories are expensive; simply buy your duvet cover in two sizes. Have TWO duvets on your bed, ideally a King or super-King on the top, so that you have a nice amount of drape over the sides (here it’s a double and a king).

The two layers of duvet make it fluffy and padded; at night fold back the top duvet. In winter, of course, you can snuggle under both!

You can never have too much storage space, so make sure your wardrobes or closets are large enough to hold everything. If you end up giving up a lot of space to storage, then keep everything else in the room simple. Don’t overload it with small items of furniture and that will help create a sense of space.

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2. Stand your pillows up

The metal birds shown here (right) were a relatively inexpensive  ‘feature’, £29.99/$46 from Dunelm, flock of metal flying birds. They add to the overall tranquility of the room, but also serve another purpose here. There is a wooden beam running the length of the bed (it’s a converted hayloft), which isn’t good Feng shui, so I’ve placed some crystals in between the birds to re-harmonise the space.

Stand your pillows up. Always have two on each side and add a matching scatter cushion.

Top tip: If you are handy with a sewing machine buy an extra duvet cover so you have matching fabric to ‘play’ with. You can sew tie-backs for existing plain curtains; cut some MDF board, pad with wadding and cover with fabric to create a pelmet to match the tie-backs. Make some extra cushion covers or pillow slips …


Change it up - To celebrate the seasons, have a range of cushion covers that you can change as the months move on. Winter cushions below are knitted cream (light and bright but with an interesting texture), spring cushions are mint-green leaves… summer is vibrant lilac!

Egg chair

It’s a small touch but you will be surprised at how ‘refreshing’ it is to a room. You can also do this with your finishing touches – swap your ornamental pieces around from room to room.

See what nature can offer too;  driftwood, interesting pebbles and stones … and rummage in markets and car boot sales for old ironwork. Anything that has a patina and is interesting to look at.

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An off-cut of wood and an interesting pebble

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Right: A beautiful piece of wood bought at a local market, with three old gate hinges – rustic charm!



I work on a couple of basic principles – no unnecessary clutter and if I can’t find a place for something then I recycle it at the local charity shop. If the house is tidy and organised it’s a) easier to flash the Dyson and the mop around b) you are creating a relaxing environment in which to live. The kids and other-half are more likely to put things away if there’s a designated place for something, which is a time saver. If you have to clear up before you clean, then you are making work for yourself!

There is a saying in the UK – a stitch in time saves nine! I love that one. It’s so true. Spend half an hour organising something in your house today and it will save you that ten times over in the coming weeks.




Twitter: @LinnBHalton FB: Author Linn B Halton

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Saving the best, until last …

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Brought to you by Linn B Halton


Twitter: @LinnBHalton FB: Author Linn B Halton

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Janice Horton on planning for the Snap Gap…!


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