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Monday, April 25, 2016

Dining with Disney

More of our adventures on our recent cruise.

One of the best aspects of cruising with Disney Cruise Line (DCL) is the food. OMG, what a banquet! Breakfast and lunch were buffets. Miles of food lines. Maybe not quite “miles.” It just seemed that way. Anything you want and as much as you want. Cereal, waffles, eggs, bacon, sausage, hash, fresh fruit, pancakes, oatmeal, and so much more. Did I mention pastries? Cinnamon rolls, donuts, danishes, croissants. The latter was one of the grandkids’ favorites.

Lunch wasn’t just sandwich makings, although you could get that, too. Stir-fry, wraps (grandson, who doesn’t like fish, loved the tuna wrap), salad bar, fresh fruit, peel-and-eat shrimp, pizza, hamburgers, a dessert bar that rivaled the salad bar in length.

Disney does rotational dining for dinner. You rotate through three restaurants, and your wait staff rotates with you. Each dining room has a different flair. International cuisine and plain fare. Lite and vegetarian meals. Daughter has a dairy allergy, and the staff made sure she had very tempting meals, even a dairy-less cake. I loved the night we had lobster. After indulging too much (maybe?) on the shrimp at lunch, Hubs stuck with steak, fearing that his gout would act up if he went for the lobster. Beverages were unlimited. On the second night, our server (with a great memory) immediately brought Hubs his iced tea and my ginger ale. Son-in-law had ordered a wine package, so a different wine was brought to the table each night. The servers interacted well with the kids, treating them as adults, really listening to them.

Daughter had a rule for the kiddies on the trip. Each day they had to try three new things, not necessarily food. Since accounting time occurred at dinner, they did try different foods. G’daughter liked the crab but not shrimp. G’son tried and didn’t like salmon. He liked one of the dessert options on the adult menu, though. The triple treat. Three different desserts—petit four size. A triangle of cheesecake, a square of something yummy, and a rectangle of chocolate. If he tried a bite of each one, he got his three new things. No dummy, that kid.

As much as I enjoyed the appetizers, salads, and main courses, the desserts were my favorite. I thought the lava chocolate cake was the best until we had a chocolate soufflé. I thought I died and went to heaven. For g’daughter, it was the Mickey ice cream bar. Mickey’s head on a stick, covered with hard chocolate and sprinkles (which one of our servers called sparkles). G’son loved the Han Solo in Carbonite bar. Hubs liked all the desserts.

DCL has two special adult-only dining rooms. According to Hubs, that was the best part. (All the noise in the regular dining rooms made him a bit of a cranky-pants.) Although I enjoyed the dining rooms. Disney means kids and kids make noise. But this restaurant was a real treat. That’s where we had the chocolate soufflé.

All day long, you could get food, munchies, and beverages. Hubs liked the self-serve soft ice cream. Since the Caribbean is hot, it’s important to drink plenty of liquids. By bringing my own cup, I had ice water all day. I could have had juice or soda, too. One of the cutest novelty items was a BB-8 cup. Cute but difficult to handle.

Only on the last day did we find out about the midnight snack bar. Not that we needed anything more to eat. For those who wanted beverages of the alcohol type, small kiosks were strategically positioned, especially near the pools.

If you didn’t want to hit any of the dining rooms, there was always room service. For our family, dinner was the only time we all got together.

When I first realized our stateroom was in the very back of the boat, I cringed. Turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Walking the length of the ship after each meal helped use up some of the calories from all that scrumptious food.

The finishing touch was the foil-wrapped chocolates on the bed at night.

Disney sure does food well.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Saturday Spotlight: DESIGNED FOR YOU by Jo Grafford

TITLE – Designed For You
SERIES (& Book #) – For You Series, Book #1
AUTHOR – Jo Grafford
GENRE – Contemporary Romance
PUBLICATION DATE – April 19, 2016
LENGTH (Pages) - 370


Despite a string of personal tragedies and setbacks, Jillian Lang's interior design company is an enormous success. If she doesn't count the cyber stalker who hounds her daily…

Knowing she can’t keep up with her fast-growing list of bids and contracts without help, she reluctantly breaks her number one personal rule of "don't depend on anyone" and hires an office manager. Not only does Holland Sparks do an incredible job of running Lang Interiors, he provides a much-needed buffer between her and the cyber stalker, while steadily chipping away at a thousand barriers she’s put up to protect her heart.

When the stalker suddenly moves his game from the cyber world to the real world, Jillian discovers no one in her immediate circle is exactly who or what he claims to be. Not her landlord. Not even her family.

Will Holland be the one man she can turn to, or will his own secrets be reason enough to scrap her designs on the man of her dreams?

Friday, April 22, 2016


About the Book

Bringing in the Thieves
by Lora Lee
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo Books
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Published by: Bell Bridge Books
Release Date: December 9, 2014
Length: 168 Pages

Frankie Lou's back and Poppy's madder than a wet hen.
Create a church choir filled with teenage misfits?
Over Poppy's dead body.

Minister's daughter Frankie Lou McMasters has come back to Ruby Springs, Texas with her daughter, Betsy, eleven years after running off to marry the town bad boy. Her mild notoriety as a bad girl is prime gossip for her childhood enemy, Poppy Fremont, now choir director of Faith Community Church--where Frankie Lou's daddy, now retired to Florida, was the preacher.

When Frankie Lou comes to the deacons with a request to add a youth choir of at-risk teens she's been coaching, Poppy throws a fit. A few hours later, Frankie Lou finds her dead in the baptistery pool. And Poppy's not playing possum.

Frankie Lou sets out to clear her name as the main suspect, and tries to locate the real killer. Could he be sexy Joe Camps, the father of one of her teen singers? In the meantime, her momma shows up from Florida to take charge of Frankie Lou's life. Bless her heart.

Lora Lee also writes as Loralee Lillibridge. Learn more about her contemporary romances and keep in tune with the Joyful Noise at lora-lee.com

Bringing in the Thieves - Excerpt

I knew the minute I read the church bulletin that I was fixin’ to be Southern-fried and plated-up in front of God, the Faith Community Church deacons, and eventually the entire community of Ruby Springs, Texas, sure as my name’s Frankie Lou Birmingham McMasters.
My well-meaning landlady, Nettie Bloom, had decided to announce my proposed church project without asking me if I wanted her to. I had just scheduled a meeting with the deacons about it, not given them any details about the idea. I hadn’t spoken it aloud to anyone but Miss Nettie. But now there it was in print, along with Miss Nettie’s usual assortment of misplaced phrases and Mrs. Malaprop word choices. Miss Nettie had been editing the church’s newsletter, News From The Pews, for a good many years, but I’d noticed her memory getting a little tangled lately.
100 Blessings St.
Ruby Springs, Texas

As we wait for the selection of a full-time pastor, we wel­come back interim minister, Reverend Matthew Whitlaw to the pulpit next Sunday at Faith Community. His morning ser­mon will be "Jesus Walks on Water” followed by "Searching for Jesus” in the evening.
For those of you who have children and don’t know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
Members of the Weight Watchers group will meet Monday at 5:30 P.M. for weekly weigh-in. Please use large double door at the side entrance to the annex. The Low Self-Esteem Support Group will be using the back door.
Prior to prayer meeting Wednesday evening, a bean supper will be held in the church hall. Special music will follow.
Until further notice, please give massages to the church secre­tary, Lovey Muchmore. She will then give massages to the newsletter editor who will share the details in our newslet­ter.
Prayerfully submitted,
N. Bloom, Newsletter Editor

Truth be known, there were certain people who weren’t exactly thrilled by my return to the town where my daddy, Reverend Frank Birmingham, occupied the pulpit at Faith Community before his recent retirement to Florida. I’d been gone from Ruby Springs eleven years, but it seems those certain people have the combined memory of a herd of elephants. One in particular: Poppy Rose deHaven Fremont, Faith Com­munity’s choir director.
I grabbed my tote, made a quick call next door to Miss Nettie’s house, where my eleven-year-old, Betsy, was staying for dinner, then headed for the church. It was a hot spring night and bound to get hotter.
Help me, Lord, Miss Nettie and that newsletter are gonna get me killed one way or another.
THE UNEXPECTED appearance of Poppy Rose deHaven Fremont in the church’s conference room confirmed what I’d feared all along. My notoriety as the shamefully irreverent preacher’s daughter hadn’t been forgotten, even after an absence of more than a decade. Any hope of getting the deacons to approve my request had just been deep-sixed. Well, horse pucky!
There she was, the undisputed Queen of Mean, flapping her colla­gen-plumped lips faster than a whippoorwill’s tail in a windstorm while seven deacons stared in wide-eyed amazement.
I shook my head in disbelief. What in the heck had she done to her­self? Those puffy lips weren’t the only recently enhanced body parts, either. Poppy Rose was a walking, talking endorsement for the modern wonders of plastic surgery and extreme weight loss. My monthly house rent couldn’t begin to touch the high-dollar cost of that hot pink linen skirt and knit top clinging to her man-made curves closer than a coat of paint from Howard’s Hardware. Talk about extreme makeover, her body had been nipped and tucked in places I didn’t even want to think about. Yikes!

About Lora Lee

You can’t be a preacher’s kid and raise a little hob without some serious repercussions. Yes, ma’am, that’s the gospel truth. Lora Lee’s JOYFUL NOISE mystery series for Bell Bridge Books, sheds a little light on just how serious those consequences can be when Frankie Lou Birmingham McMasters returns to her hometown of Ruby Springs, Texas after ten years in hopes of putting some shine on her tarnished reputation, but finds herself in the middle of murder and mayhem instead.
Though author Lora Lee insists the series isn’t about her in any way, shape or form, she does admit to being a real-life P.K. (that’s preacher’s kid, in case you didn’t know.) She was born in Texas and her Southern blood runs deep. Her daddy told her any place below the Mason-Dixon line was part of the South, including the Lone Star State.
Since living in West Michigan most of her married life, she’s lost some of her Texas twang, but once in awhile, a might could and a y’all or two slips into her conversation with her critique partners. They love her, anyway. So does her husband of fifty-plus years and their children. With a current family count of twenty-three, get-togethers often resemble an old time revival when they all gather for fun and food.
Lora Lee is a member of Romance Writer’s of America, Mid-Michigan RWA, Sisters-in-Crime, RWA’s specialty chapter Kiss of Death and is currently published in contemporary romance. She is also a proud graduate of the Grand Rapids Citizens Police Academy.
When not writing or trying to keep up with her ever-growing family, she enjoys reading, music and travel. Come back and visit for more on the upcoming release of BRINGING IN THE THIEVES, the first book in the JOYFUL NOISE series, and other upcoming news.

Diane's comment: I love this book. Lora Lee's voice comes through loud and clear. Looking for a fun read? Look no further than Bringing in the Thieves.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Blog Tour: BIRTH OF ADAM by Liza O'Connor

Welcome to Liza O'Connor, who shares an interesting perspective on foreigners.

 Why do the French hate Americans? I found over 30 blogs discussing this puzzle.
But first, let me address the possibility that it is not just the French who hate Americans. When I was in Australia and New Zealand people kept saying, “I normally hate Americans, but you’re right enough.”
Since I know without question, I’m not even close to being the ‘nicest American alive’ I concluded something was odd about their perspective. “What’s wrong with the other Americans?”
“They come in buses, wear polyester, and talk loudly.”
Then later someone else complained about the Japanese.
“What’s wrong with the Japanese?” I asked.
“They come in buses, constantly take pictures, and chatter non-stop.”
Suddenly a light bulb went off in my head. “Is it possible you just hate buses?”
The guy laughed. “Maybe…”
Since a great deal of tourist take bus tours while in France, this looked like a possible explanation for the French detestation as well.
And why are buses so detestable? These aren’t ‘let’s go to work buses’. These are tourist buses — a roaming infestation of noise, gas fumes, and cacophony. They are like a giant cicada that swarm into a boutique or restaurant, sending the regulars clients fleeing. Then after they quickly devour their food, they swarm outside to swarm the shops before landing back in the bus.
There is also the general inability to speak French. The French LOVE and protect their language, probably more so than any other country. They believe it the most beautiful language in existence and actually write laws to protect it and often to let ‘new words’ come into the vocabulary, instead insisting old words must be found to describe the item.
In my book, Adam creates a program to help Amanda learn to speak the language perfectly, and she never travels in a bus, but she’s still hated by the other French students.

Birth of Adam
Book 2 of the Artificial Intelligence Sci-Rom Series
Liza O’Connor

With a new identity, Amanda believes she has left her past behind. Then she acquires a stalker. She contacts the FBI and in doing so alerts a program she once created to her location. Now ensconced in the internet, the program is safe from harm, smarter than ever, and sentient. Presenting itself on her phone as a handsome face with a sexy British accent, “Adam” ingratiates himself into Amanda’s life. To ensure her safety and happiness, the sentient program proves there is absolutely nothing he can’t and won’t do.

“This is ridiculous! What is it about Miss Carrington that bothers you?” he demanded.
Amanda grimaced. This was certainly not how she wished to start her morning.
 “She doesn’t think rules apply to her,” one of the Europeans said.
“She’s a freshman and shouldn’t be here,” another added.
“Wait, two days ago the accusation was that she was too old to be here,” he reminded them.
“That too,” Davy replied.
“She never goes out with us to the bars.”
“She never hangs around with us at all.”
Pinchot looked at Amanda. “Anything you wish to say?”
“No,” she replied.
“Well, I’ve no idea what rules I’m not obeying, and I don’t like bars, nor do I hang around with people who don’t like me, and I’m astounded, given the anti-American sentiment at this school, that any of the European students would think I would try to hang out with them.” She looked at the guy who’d made that declaration. “If you want me to talk to you, you have to make the first move, because I’m not approaching someone who hates Americans just on principle.”
He looked momentarily confused. “You’re American? But your accent is perfect!”
“I work on improving my French every day,” she replied. “And thank you for the compliment.” She looked at Pinchot. “I’m not certain why we had to discuss this. Nothing is going to change. Beth’s jackals think whatever Beth tells them to think, and the Europeans hate Americans, and I don’t have time to deal with all this nonsense, so yes, I live in a nice house with really nice people so I don’t have to find fish in my bed and spit in my food.”
Pinchot sighed and threw up his hands. “Well, I tried.”
The way he said it made her feel as though she had failed him, which upset her greatly. When class was over, she attempted to talk to him, but he ordered her to her next class.
Fortunately, her next period was her free class, because she had a great need to cry. She found her way to the giant windows with the chairs and sat down. It wasn’t her fault Beth had turned everyone against her, and it was certainly not her fault the European students hated Americans. Nor could she blame them. If the only people she had met were Beth and her jackals, she’d hate Americans too.
She didn’t bother trying to stop the tears. God, she was thirty-seven years old and somehow hanging around with these children had turned her into a child all over again, with all the same miseries she’d endured the first time around.

For the Artificial Intelligence Series

Book 1
Public Secrets
Free with Kindle Unlimited

Book 2
Birth of Adam
Free with Kindle Unlimited

About Liza
Liza O’Connor was raised badly by feral cats, left the South/Midwest and wandered off to find nicer people on the east coast. There she worked for the meanest man on Wall Street, while her psychotic husband tried to kill her three times. (So much for finding nicer people.) Then one day she declared enough, got a better job, divorced her husband, and fell in love with her new life where people behaved nicely. But all those bad behaviors have given her lots of fodder for her books. Please buy these books, because otherwise, she’ll become grumpy and write troubled novels instead. They will likely traumatize you.

Mostly humorous books by Liza:
A Long Road to Love Series: (Humorous Contemporary Odd Romance)
Worst Week Ever — Laugh out loud week of disasters of Epic proportions.
Oh Stupid Heart — The heart wants what it wants, even if it’s impossible.
Coming to Reason — There is a breaking point when even a saint comes to reason.
Climbing out of Hell — The reconstruction of a terrible man into a great one.
The Hardest Love Is to love oneself. Sam’s story.

The White Oak-Mafia Series: (Spunky, strong women who have given up on love, but find it anyway)
A Fortune to Die For — Megan wins the Mega Times Lottery and discovers it comes with a curse. Soon even the Mafia wants to kill her.
Unexpected Love — Coming Soon: What could be stranger than a British Prince falling in love with a Mafia Princess?

Requires Rescue Series: (Contemporary Romance where even the strong needs help.)
Saving Casey — Cass wakes up in the body of a troubled teen who has burned every bridge imaginable. Her only choice is to turn this life around, but that’s much harder than she ever imagined.
Saving Molly — Coming soon: Sean rescues a young woman who smiles too much, and she saves him and his child in return.

Humorous Singles:
Ghost Lover Two British brothers fall in love with the same young woman. Ancestral ghost is called in to fix the situation. And there’s a ghost cat that roams about the book as well. (Humorous Contemporary Romance)

Humorous Sci-Fi series
The Gods of Probabilities — In the Multiverses, anything can & does happen. Join the bickering Gods and the sentient beings they oversee.
Surviving Outbound — Earth is doomed, but the odds of surviving outbound isn’t much better.
Surviving Terranue — Welcome to Terranue. Prepare to be baked, pummeled, and frozen. But first you’ll have to survive the black death growing in the cliffs.
Surviving Sojourn — You know you have reason to worry when a hyper-grown one-year-old is made captain of the ship.

Sci-Fi Romance with Artificial Intelligence and Suspense 
Public SecretsCarla Simon is a best-selling novelist besieged by death threats and lawsuits because her stories keep turning out to be true.
Birth of Adam —  Carla changes her identity and enrolls in college, but the AI program finds her and ensconces its life into hers.

The Adventures of Xavier & Vic Sleuth series: (Late Victorian/Mystery/Romance)
The Troublesome Apprentice — The greatest sleuth in Victorian England hires a young man who turns out to be a young woman.
The Missing Partner — Opps! The greatest sleuth in Victorian England goes missing, leaving Vic to rescue him, a suffragette, and about 100 servants. Not to mention an eviscerating cat. Yes, let’s not mention the cat.
A Right to Love — A romantic detour for Jacko. Want to see how amply rewarded Jacko was when he & Vic save an old woman from Bedlam?
The Mesmerist The Mesmerist can control people from afar and make them murder for her. Worse yet, Xavier Thorn has fallen under her spell.
Well Kept Secrets — The problems with secrets is that they always come to light, no matter how you wish to silence them.
Pack of Trouble — Changes are a part of life, but these changes almost kill Vic.
The Darkest Days — Muddled cases make Vic very grumpy.

Disturbing Historical:
Untamed & Unabashed The youngest of the Bennet sisters, Lydia, tells her story. A faithful, yet provocative spinoff from Pride & Prejudice. (Warning: Lydia is frisky.)

Investigate these sites: