The Florida Sky

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Saturday morning, I awoke in Jacksonville, Florida.
I was there teaching a yearbook workshop, and it was a great experience.
There are times when I think that I have a really difficult job. There are times when I think it isn’t worth it.
And then, I fly across the country to work with other yearbook nerds and have a wonderful time.
On my way home, I look out the window and marvel at the beauty of this Earth, at how lucky I am to have the freedom and ability to travel to another state and meet with people who have the same interests as me.
Some people work in a cubicle all day.
Here’s the view out of my office window:
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Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s not like this *every* day.
In fact, these next several weeks, I’m going to be working my *tail* off back home in Texas.
I’m going to do my best to work hard and come home and blog in the evenings, but please understand if my frequency in posting slacks off.
Sometimes, I have a tendency to post about the negative things in my life.
But I want you to know that there are good things.
Life is good.
Life is wonderful.
I love my job.
I love my husband.
I love the Minions.
I love our future children, even if it will be a while before they appear.
And I love this world.
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How can you see this and not feel that way?
It was a good morning. 
I had good, contemplative thoughts.
Until we landed on the runway in Texas and saw this:
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Well, I guess nothing lasts forever. Not even the Florida sky.
This view out of my window on my way home from Florida took my breath away.

In My Mailbox

In My Mailbox is a weekly feature hosted by The Story Siren.
It’s a chance for book bloggers to display the books they purchased or received for review each week.
Here’s what I got in mine:
Featured Books:
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
Release Date: Aug. 31, 2010
**ARC courtesy of author Michelle Hodkin**

The Healthy Beef Cookbook by Richard Chamberlain and Betsy Hornick


**Paperback copy courtesy of the Texas Beef Council**

You can click here to read my post about cooking with Chef Chamberlain.

Contests I Won!

Because I’m so super-stoked about winning these contests, here’s a link to them!

The Great YA Bake Sale
(Grand Prize Winner…Score! I can’t *wait* to start making some of the recipes authors included in the recipe book!)

A Hexy Giveaway for the Auburn Writers Conference
(I was the runner-up winner since the original winner didn’t claim her prize. Sad for her, but yay for me!)

It’s been a great week!

Thanks for looking!

Sunset

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This weekend at my cousin’s wedding, there was a beautiful sunset over the lake.
Of course, we had to take photos with it.
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Mom and Dad
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Andy and River
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Mom and River
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James and Me
I just love the beauty of nature.
Happy Saturday!
This sunset over Lake Hugo was absolutely stunning.

Review: Zombies vs. Unicorns by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier

I’ve seen a lot of buzz about Zombies vs. Unicorns by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier lately.The cover art is really, really cool and with a lineup that includes Cassandra Clare, Carrie Ryan, Meg Cabot, Diana Peterfreund and Scott Westerfield, I knew this book would be awesome.

I wasn’t disappointed.
“It’s a question as old as time itself: which is better, the zombie or the unicorn? In this anthology, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier (unicorn and zombie, respectively), strong arguments are made for both sides in the form of short stories. Half of the stories portray the strengths–for good and evil–of unicorns and half show the good (and really, really bad-ass) side of zombies. Contributors include many bestselling teen authors, including Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray, Maureen Johnson, Meg Cabot, Scott Westerfield, and Margo Lanagan. 

This anthology will have everyone asking: Team Zombie or Team Unicorn?”

– Description from GoodReadsI really enjoyed the range of stories in this anthology. From Garth Nix’s fantastical fairy tale to Scott Westerfield’s zombie love story, there was a wide range of topics that readers will enjoy.

I *loved* Meg Cabot’s tale of unicorn hilarity and thoroughly enjoyed the brief glimpse into Diana Peterfreund’s world of killer unicorns.

I was pleasantly surprised by Carrie Ryan’s tale, set in her post-apocalyptic universe where zombies roam the Earth. I wasn’t really a big fan of The Forest of Hands and Teeth, but I may have to give The Dead-Tossed Waves a try after reading “Bougainvillea.”

And the tales by Cassandra Clare and Scott Westerfield were great, too.

So, I guess the question is — which team did I end up on?

It’s hard to say. I started the journey convinced I was Team Unicorn. Now, I’m not so sure. Zombies are cool, too.

Can I be both?

Zombies vs. Unicorns by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier is available from Amazon.**Disclaimer** An Advanced Readers Copy of this book was provided to me for review from the publisher, Margaret K. McElderry Books

Thanks to the publisher for the chance to read and review this book early!

Beef: It’s What’s For Dinner

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I recently had the chance to attend the Appetite for Inspiration cooking event sponsored by the Texas Beef Council.
DFW bloggers descended upon the Viking Cooking School in Dallas to learn how to prepare some simple, family-friendly beef dishes from Chef Richard Chamberlain, a local celebrity chef.
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Chef Chamberlain prepared a couple of dishes right before our eyes.
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First up was the Beef and Heirloom Tomato Salad with Balsamic Syrup.
Oh my goodness it was yummy.
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Chef Chamberlain talked about the benefits of eating beef when it is prepared in a healthy (and yummy!) way.
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The Beef Pot Roast with Maple Sweet Potatoes and Cider Gravy was so tender and juicy. It’s definitely being added to my recipe rotation.
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Soon it was time to don our own aprons and head to the kitchen to test our skills!
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We were divided into groups and assigned a recipe to prepare. My group’s dish was the Mojo Beef Kabobs.
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I’ll share the recipe with you in a later post, but this was the end result. It was really peppery and yummy!
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We were proud of our dish. I think it’s really pretty, don’t you?
Here are some of the other dishes:
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Farmer’s Market Vegetable, Beef and Brown Rice Salad
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Sweet Hawaiian Mini Burgers
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Tenderloin, Cranberry and Pear Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing
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Chipotle Sloppy Joes with Crunchy Cole Slaw
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Of course we had to try all of that delicious food!
And boy, was it yummy!
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Here’s me and Chef Chamberlain.
It was a wonderful experience with a great group of women. It was a lot of fun!
You can see more photos from the event on my Flickr page.
**Disclaimer** This event was hosted by the Texas Beef Council. I was not compensated for this post. Attendees received goodie bags with aprons, recipe books and other fun beef-related items.

Author Interview: Gail Giles

Today I have the great pleasure of interviewing fellow Texan Gail Giles, author of Dark Song, a dark and haunting young adult story that was released earlier this month.
“Ames is not the person she was a few months ago. Her father lost his job, and her family is crumbling apart. Now, all she has is Marc. Marc, who loves her more than anything. Marc, who owns a gun collection. And he’ll stop at nothing–even using his guns–to get what he wants. Ames feels her parents have betrayed her with their lies and self-absorption, but is she prepared to make the ultimate betrayal against them?”
– Description from GoodReads
 
The dark theme of this story really struck me — so I focused my questions around that. Here’s my interview with Gail:
 
What led you to write Dark Song?

“I watched a Court TV case about a girl and her boyfriend that conspired to kill her mother.  I got interested and researched and found 22 cases of young girls hooking up, usually with older boys, then when faced with parental disapproval, conspiring to murder the parent or parents.  These 22 cases had all occurred with 18 months. To me this was a cultural phenomenon—a female’s Columbine.  Boys take their anger out to the street, to the school; girls turn it in, to themselves or to the home.”
How do you cope with writing such an emotional story? How does it affect you? 

 
“I’ll admit it’s pretty depressing.  It does take an emotional toll.  I’ve said many times if you don’t laugh during the funny parts, or cry during the sad ones, while you write, why should you expect your reader to do so?”
How would you describe the story, in five words or less?
“Family falls apart.”What do you want readers to take away from this novel?
“I want readers to understand Ames—why she would cling to Marc, so easily and so early, but why that love was just as false as the picture she presented of her early family life.” Is there anything you’d like to add?
“The odd thing is that I am not a dark person in life.  I mostly make people laugh.  You wouldn’t expect that would you?”
I’d really like to thank Gail for taking time to answer my questions, and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for allowing me to participate in the Dark Song blog tour.
Dark Song by Gail Giles is available from Amazon. Author Gail Giles discusses her book, Dark Song, a haunting story of a young girl whose love of the wrong boy leads to a choice between him or her family.

Happily Ever After…

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Last weekend, we packed up and headed for Hugo, Oklahoma for my cousin’s wedding.
I had a lot of fun hanging out with everyone and seeing the family. It was a beautiful ceremony.
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This is Courtney, my cousin. Doesn’t she make a beautiful bride?
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Here’s her hubby-to-be, Cody. That’s my great-aunt Mary, who conducted the ceremony.
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It was truly a family event. That’s my great-aunt Reta helping the flower girls (Courtney’s cousins) come out of the house.
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Isn’t she beautiful?
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Here’s Courtney and her dad peeking out from the house.
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And my favorite part — the groom’s face when he first catches a glimpse of her. Doesn’t he look like the happiest man on Earth?
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Here are some of the bridesmaids. The one in the middle is Katie — Courtney’s younger sister.
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It really was a wonderful ceremony.
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Don’t they look happy?
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Aunt Mary wrote a beautiful sermon.
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And they are such a beautiful couple.
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I love this shot of her placing the ring on Cody’s finger. He has such an intense look on his face. Like he only has eyes for her.
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Here are Mr. and Mrs. Mobbs!
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And my favorite photo of the day — he is grinning and she’s so enthusiastic about the kiss!
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It was really a great day.
I love weddings. Don’t you?
Happy Wednesday!