Book Review: Waking Hearts by Elizabeth Hunter

Getting an advanced copy of a book by Elizabeth Hunter is like getting a really good early Christmas present. Waking Hearts was just that kind of gift. The Cambio Springs series works so well because the paranormal elements are grounded in plenty of real life. Important real life stuff like heartache, incredible loyalty, family, friendship and cooperation in a small town where everyone looks out for one another. Oh, and of course the best part…love.

One of the things I loved best about Waking Hearts is that it’s centered on a single mom of four, count ‘em, four kids! She’s harried, she’s stressed, she’s a hot mess, and yet she is a rock. Life turned upside down, and in the middle of a controversial mystery with bad guys hunting her and her children she never loses sight of what’s important. Even when she finds out about her long-term friend’s true feelings for her. Feelings he’s carried since they were kids but never had the guts to reveal.

Until now.

Ollie knows that Allie is the only one for him. He knows this is his shot. He would do anything for Allie, including not hesitating in taking her entire family into his home to protect them. We have a real, genuine hero here. The kind of man that backs up what he says. The kind of guy that isn’t taking Allie’s four kids as her baggage but genuinely loves them and cares for them and her. How much bigger can a hero get?

The next thing that’s great about this book is the way that Allie’s friends and community rally around her. Truly, everyone in Cambio Springs is family and they take care of their own, whether they turn into snakes, bears, wolves, big cats, other people or nothing at all, doesn’t matter. This community is tight in all the right ways.

Wondering about the romance? Don’t worry, I didn’t forget. Think you can’t find time for romance when four kids are part of the package? Think again. Where there’s a will there’s a way. Not only do Allie and Ollie find time to be alone together, but when they do, the sparks are even hotter.

You might want to get ready to read this one in one sitting because you probably won’t want to put it down until it’s done. Elizabeth Hunter weaves the kind of compelling story that may actually leave you somewhat breathless at times and with a warm sensation somewhere in the vicinity of your heart.

Go to Elizabeth Hunter’s website for more information on Waking Hearts, the rest of the Cambio Springs series and Elizabeth Hunters other books. You can preorder Waking Hearts right now and it’s out tomorrow, November 24th.

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Road Trip Photo Essay: Colorado Springs, CO to Points West…and South, Part II

As promised, this is part two of our trip to the four corners area. So without further ado, Part II.

Mesa Verde Park covers 81.39 miles of mesas and valleys in the southwest corner of Colorado. The park includes over 5,000 archaeological sites including 600 cliff dwellings. These were the ancestral lands of the Pueblo Indians who later moved further south to join the Pueblo people of Arizona and New Mexico. No one knows for sure, but droughts were probably the main reason for the move. Knowing where they could go, and that the people further south were friendly probably helped make the decision to move a little easier. These people inhabited the Mesa Verde area for 700 years building their apartments in the caves and learning to live and farm the top of the mesas. They are called the Anasazi in the language of the modern Pueblo, meaning “ancient ones” and consisted of Navajo and Zuni people. Oh, by the way, Mesa Verde is Spanish for green table.

Outside the visitors center you will be greeted by the Pueblo Potter, a 2009 limestone sculpture by Adrian Wall.
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But the first thing you see besides the building is The Ancient Ones, a breathtaking statue by Edward J. Fraughton. My picture here doesn’t do it justice, the light was not in my favor. It depicts a scene out of everyday life for these people. A man climbing a cliff face with nothing but small hand and footholds carved out of the rock to hold on to with firewood on his back.
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Here’s a closer peek.
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The next thing we did was plan our visit with info and maps provided by the visitors center. We already knew we were not going to see the Cliff Palace and we wanted to do our own, self-guided tour which left us one clear choice that would take us to Spruce Tree House and Mesa Top Loop Road.

Spruce Tree House is one of the few cliff dwellings you can visit without a guide. To get there you must descend to the valley floor via a half mile of switchback trail (you’re going to climb back up this trail to get out so make sure you are physically ready to do it in the heat and sun) then cross the valley floor and take a short path up to the cave. There are also petroglyphs to see here if you have time to take the two mile, round-trip hike to see them.
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The dwellings reach deep into the cave making use of every nook and cranny.

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Corn grinding stones
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More of Spruce Tree House
20140912_123203 Open Kiva. Kiva’s were underground structures with wooden roofs believed to be used for spiritual and community gatherings. Normally all you would see from these angles would be a small, square hole with a ladder sticking out of it.20140912_123240

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Looking down at Spruce Tree House as we finished climbing back up out of the valley. You can see a couple of the switchbacks here.
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Once we were done gawking at Spruce Tree House, it was time to take on the next leg of our Mesa Verde Adventure, which was actually several rolled into one.

Mesa Top Loop Road is a six-mile driving tour with twelve sites along the way. Some are seen from a distance such as Cliff Palace, the largest dwelling in the park which can be seen from Sun Point and Sun Temple stops.
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Others sites, can be visited during the drive on top of the mesa including an old, man-made reservoir and surface dwellings like these.

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There’s a lot more to see on this drive. Including, a 365 degree view from South Point View (also where the fire watchtower is located).

Speaking of fires…don’t be discouraged by some of the views that you’ll see on the Mesa Top Road Drive. You’re going to see some real fire devastation, but at the same time, your going to see tremendous renewal. The fires exposed a lot of new archaeological sites and more opportunities to learn about the Anasazi people.
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Between 1934 and 2003, the Mesa Verde Park has experienced 12 major wildfires, all determined to have been started by lightning. Since 2000 alone over 24,000 acres have been scorched. But then you will also come across breathtaking views like this…
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and this…20140912_154137

and this…a short hike to South Point lookout, and 365 degrees as far as the eye can see, haze allowing…
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20140912_152128I feel so blessed to be able to travel and see the wonders and history of stuff like this and to have a smartphone with decent camera to record it! Now for some practical stuff.

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When I said to make sure you are physically ready to hike in Mesa Verde National Park I meant it. I saw at least one ranger have to go down the switchback path at the Spruce Tree House with oxygen and a portable defibrillator. Elevations range from 6,000ft to over 8,500ft. The guided tours require guides for a reason. Access to the Cliff Palace includes climbing down a long, narrow ladder in a sandstone crevice near the edge of the cliff. Don’t push it. Stop and take a break if you need to. Pace yourself. That means go at your OWN pace. The path to Spruce Tree House has benches and rocks to sit on along the way. There is poison ivy on this trail and it is marked. You are forewarned.

Bring plenty of water with you. We were there just two weeks ago and although the weather was mild (in the 80 degree range), the sun still gets hot in a hurry and there is not much opportunity for shade. Although some signs and websites say water is available at every stop on Mesa Top Road, it is not. Don’t take the chance. Bring your sunscreen!

Finally, if you really want to explore the wonders of Mesa Verde National Park. I would recommend making a long weekend out of it. We only saw a small fraction of what the park has to offer. There is a resort area and plenty of camp sites as well. Stay a couple of days and take some time to explore. There is also a restaurant at Far View Area. Nothing fancy. but there’s food, drink, and a gift shop. The park fee is $5 or $10 depending on what time of year it is. The guided tours are $4 unless you opt for the twilight tour and that’s $12. Make sure you get a map and a visitors guide and read them. Make sure you don’t miss and cool or important stuff!

The last leg of our journey saw us leaving our lodgings at the Ute Mountain Casino and Hotel a day early. We traveled to Pagosa Springs and stayed the night there in a really reasonable, tiny, family owned hotel by the highway called the Alpine Inn that I found on tripadvisor.com. We visited a couple of the local pubs, took a gander at the hot springs pools at The Springs hot springs and made a mental note to come back just to go there. We had dinner at the second best and more reasonably priced restaurant in town, Boss Hog’s Restaurant and Saloon. The people were very friendly and the food was decent.
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Our route home took us over Wolf Creek Pass and through the San Luis Valley, down the Cosmic Highway (Highway 17). Note to self, RV camping at the Great Sand Dunes National Park, and/or at the UFO Watchtower should be in my future. I could see how the great, wide open, and sparsely populated San Luis valley could seem like a nice place to land your space craft.

The western side of Wolf Creek Pass started out beautiful beginning with Treasure Falls, about 15 miles east of Pagosa Springs. The falls are named after Treasure Mountain, which legend says, holds the secret treasure of some Frenchmen that snuck into the area and struck it rich.

It was a cool morning so the mists hung over ponds along the way and the air around the falls was crisp and heavy with the smell of deep pine forest. You can do a side trip here and take the trail to the top of the falls for about at 300ft climb. Set aside about 45 minutes if you want to make the 1/2-mile round trip.
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As we made our way further up the pass things began to get strange, then downright eerie, then just sad. Here in Colorado we’ve been battling the pine beetle for some time now. On the front range we have seen some issues, but nothing prepared me for the absolute devastation of so many old pines over such a large area. In this case, it was the spruce beetle. Tens of thousands of acres in the San Juan forest, including Wolf Creek Pass have died leaving vast swaths of dead trees interspersed with other species not affected by this particular beetle. This is a wildfire just waiting for lightning.
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The eastern side of the pass was a little better and dropped us into the San Luis Valley. From Alomosa, we found ourselves on Highway 17, The Cosmic Highway with one more mountain range, the beautiful Sangre de Cristos, to cross to get home.
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If you look closely, that barely discernable, hazy line of demarcation at the foot of the mountains is the Great Sand Dunes. A desert of sand dunes, in the middle of the Colorado Mountains with Medano Creek flowing through them. Again, you can’t make this stuff up.
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With the Sangre de Cristo mountains behind us, we started the last 45 miles of our trip, heading into Canon City, then north back to Colorado Springs.
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Back at home after a full week on the road I was glad to be back in my own bed with my own pillow (big satisfied sigh). We also missed a cold snap in the Colorado Springs area that apparently had brought a dusting of snow to some parts of the area. Temperatures were back inthe 70s and 80s by the time we got back. Oh shucky darn.

I love trips like this where I get see so much. Sometimes it can feel a little bit like sensory overload, with so much to see, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love to travel and see new things and share them with others who may share the same passion. Happy travels everyone! Be safe!

 

Hiatus

Friends, followers, and fellow bloggers. I apologize for my disappearance from the face of the earth. I was admitted to the hospital with some somewhat serious health issues and have not been able to post. “Round the Bend will be on a short hiatus as I take some time to focus on my health and regain my strength.

Thanks for your patience and I’ll be seeing you soon “Round the Bend!

Favorite Diabetic Recipes – Egg White Cheese Omelet with 505 Green Chile Sauce

A favorite for me because it’s quick, easy, and so packed with bold flavor that I don’t even miss the richness of the egg yolks. I adapted this recipe from one that Jay Robb published in his book The Fat Burning Diet Made Easy. Jay Robb is a clinical nutritionist and former body builder. He also happens to sell the best tasting, and healthiest protein powder on the market. No, I’m not crushing on Jay Robb, but I have done my homework over the years.

Back to the omelet; there are three keys to making this omelet perfect.

1) A good nonstick pan (have I mentioned how much I love Scanpan?).

2) Quality organic coconut oil.

3) Medium heat.

You don’t need to go out and buy an omelet pan to make good omelets. I, for one am not into single-use items taking up precious space in my cupboards. A good nonstick 8” pan with a good bottom is just fine and happens to work well for a single burger, a single grilled cheese sandwich, two or three over easy eggs, well, you get the picture. What do I mean by good bottom? Better pans such as Scanpan, Swiss Diamond, and All Clad will have a nice, thick, and heavy bottom. This distributes heat more evenly even if you are working on an electric stove such as the one that I am unfortunate enough to own (once your use gas you never want to go back). Of course you still need to have the right fat to cook your eggs.

Egg whites are very sticky and no matter how nonstick a pan is, a little fat ensures they aren’t going stick, tear and generally be uncooperative. But which fat should you use? Butter? Nope. Olive oil? Nope. Vegetable oil? Nope. The problem with most fats we use for cooking is that they break down into unhealthy compounds when heated. True, Olive oil and vegetable oil have a higher tolerance for heat, but olive oil’s tolerance is probably lower than you think and vegetable oil is surprisingly toxic to your body. The best choice ends up being, of all things, coconut oil.

Coconut oil was widely used up until the late 50’s when the powers that be decided that saturated fat was bad for us. Now that we have come full circle, it turns out that coconut oil is one of the healthiest oils on the planet, especially for cooking at medium to medium high temperatures (keep the olive oil for the salad dressing though because it’s still heart healthy that way). Go figure. Not to mention they make sticky egg whites slide around in a pan like a dream, but all this is for naught if you have the heat set too high.

I have found that this egg white omelet cooks best on medium-low heat. This allows the eggs to cook thoroughly but not browned or tough (unless you’re like my husband and you like that sort of thing. Eww.). This is also the perfect temperature to melt the cheese once you flip the omelet. Yes, I said flip, and I am aware of how omelets are usually made. Believe me, it’s not that hard, in fact you can do it with a spatula if flipping eggs in the air isn’t your thing. So without further ado, here is the recipe for the bold, the extraordinary, the spicy, the ultra-low carb, egg white cheese omelet with green Chile sauce!

Ingredients

3 egg whites (large)

1tbsp. Coconut Oil

1 ½ tsp Lemon Pepper

1-2oz sharp cheddar cheese (shredded)

2 tbsps. 505 Green Chile Sauce (warmed)

Instructions

Heat an 8” nonstick pan over medium heat. Separate eggs (you can save the yolks in the fridge for a day or two to use in another recipe). Add lemon pepper to egg whites and beat with a fork until bubbly. Add coconut oil to pan and swirl around to coat and return to heat. Pour egg whites into pan allow them to set for a few minutes until the edges are white and they are about half cooked.

Flip the egg whites over with a spatula or, if you’re really talented or want to learn a new skill, flip the egg whites over by tossing them in the air and gently catching them in the pan (it is not recommended that you do this over the burner…big mess…huge). Sprinkle the shredded cheese on top of omelet reserving a tablespoon or two for the top. Allow cheese to mostly melt as the omelet finishes cooking.

Slide omelet onto plate folding it over with the cheese in the center, which will now finish melting under the residual heat of the egg whites. Pour 505 Green Chile Sauce evenly over the top and sprinkle with the remainder of the cheese.

To make this a proper breakfast for a diabetic we would need to add carbs. I would suggest fresh fruit, which would offer a cooling contrast to the spiciness of the Chile sauce and gives a boost of vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants, depending on what fruit you choose. I tend to stay away from breads and cereals except oat meal for the most part.

A word of caution here, please be sure to cook your eggs thoroughly to avoid very unpleasant illnesses caused by nasty little microbes like salmonella (says the woman who loves her eggs over easy).

Anybody else out there with great-tasting diabetic recipes they’d like to share? I hope to be sharing more recipes for diabetics in upcoming posts. Having been diagnosed with Type II diabetes and metabolic syndrome a few years ago, I have had to change the way I look at food, but that doesn’t mean that I have to eat drab and boring meals or that I can’t indulge in something sweet. Stay tuned for more diabetic friendly (and maybe not so friendly) recipes.

The One Lovely Blog Award

Holy cows eating muffins in the barn on a Sunday! I am a humble recipient of the “One Lovely Blog Award!” Thanks so much to Amy, writer of Afternoon Popcorn Snack for the nomination! Amy’s blog on life in Oklahoma, simple recipes and photography is awsome! Love it! Being so new to this whole blogging thing I am truly honored, and blown away, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to share some great blogs. Thanks to my family, friends and fellow bloggers who comment on my posts. It’s so nice to know I’m not just talking to myself out here! 🙂

Rules of acceptance (as mentioned by other bloggers):

*thank the person who nominated you and link back to them in your post
*share 7 things about yourself
*nominate 15 or so bloggers you admire
*contact your chosen bloggers to let them know (this might take me a few days so please bear with me)

7 new things about myself

  1. I am a recovering constant doubter and worrier.
  2. I adore corny movies! Joe Versus the Volcano, Labyrinth, Dodgeball, The Emperor’s New Groove, and Miss Congeniality being among my favorites.
  3. In addition to mainstream, I read indie/self-published books…lots of them! Shhh!
  4. I spend at least 5 minutes doing absolutely nothing every day…it’s called meditation.
  5. I talk to the animals…most of the time they don’t answer.
  6. In addition to my bachelor degree, I have an honorary doctorate in religious philosophy; I’m an ordained minister, a licensed cosmetologist, and a public notary.
  7. I’m just now figuring out what I want to be when I grow up. 😉

In all honesty, I’m so new at this I wasn’t sure that I would be following enough blogs to pull off a sufficient list, but I do…barely…and I’m adding to it all the time. So here’s some blogs that I have found to be inspiring, innovative, or just plain fun! Everyone has something to say, few have the courage to say it out loud. Thanks so much to the writers of these blogs (and many more I don’t know yet) for choosing to be courageous!

Barely Poppins          Creative Noshing          Danny’s Kitchen          Living Simply Well

Happiness Stan Lives Here          Five Spoons          Kate’s Creative Space

Domestic Diva, M.D.          eatates          sierralei          A Modern Christian Woman

The Local Tourist – Colorado          Bucket List Publications

Teaspoons and Tinsel          catchcarri          Travel Monkey – The Adventures of Kongo

Mars Of the Positive Toxicity          Catherine, Caffeinated

Can’t You Just Sit Still For Five Minutes!

Did anyone else’s mother ever utter these words, or was it just me? What a concept. Life seems to expect us to be busy, busy, busy all the time, but what about purposefully being still? What? You mean meditation? Who has time for that? Perhaps this is part of what’s wrong with the world today. Many of us are buzzing around at light speed noisy and constantly focusing our attention on things outside of ourselves, our jobs, other people, grocery shopping, how badly the dog needs a bath, the kids are due for vaccinations; you name it, never taking the time to check in with what is going on inside. I know. I used to be one of those people. If more people spent just a little time being introspective, the perspective of the whole world could change. No, I haven’t been into the punch. It’s true.

Being still (meditation) is hard. Being still is not about activity; it’s about noticing, listening, breathing. It’s not about control; it’s about letting it all go. It’s not about thinking; it’s about being. It’s definitely not boring, but you do have to get out of your own way. You literally only have to sit still for five minutes every day to make a profound impact on your life and the lives of those around you. I’m pretty sure most people can make time for five minutes, but five minutes is an awfully tiny amount of time to keep track of, or is it? Heck, back when I was a lot younger and worked at Pizza Hut you could get a personal pan pizza in five minutes. That was when I first learned that five minutes was a lot longer than I thought it was. I could get a lot accomplished in five minutes. I could wipe down the salad bar, check on a couple of tables, and drop off some dishes in the kitchen, all well within five minutes.

So how come it’s so danged hard to sit still for five minutes. Well, what happens when I try to sit still is all these thoughts come rushing at me from all directions. Shoot, I still have a load of laundry in the dryer to fold, did I send off that email to mom, my boss, a coworker, writing ideas, my nose is itchy, where did I leave my water bottle, what am I going to make for dinner, what do I want for lunch…all flying at me at once. Trying to send them away only makes it worse. So I don’t send them away. These thoughts are only rushing at me because I’ve become quiet enough to listen. Each time a thought goes by I acknowledge it and say “okay” and go back to my meditation.

Meditation requires 6 easy things:

  • A quiet and safe place to minimize distraction
  • A willing attitude and spirit
  • Breathing
  • Acknowledgement
  • Letting go
  • A little chunk of time

When I was first learning to meditate and was only doing it for five minutes (and believe me, five minutes is plenty to start off with, work up to where you’d like to be in five minute increments). The first four minutes or so went something like this: Okay, breathe. Intention: feel the love… Momdaughtersonlaundryhusbandshoppingguiltyaggrivateddiabetesyuckyfeelingwarmfeelingohthat’sbetter breathe…what a mess! This is why meditation requires daily practice if you want to get results. I got better at letting go of the thoughts that weren’t my intention focusing on my intended target and my breath in a relaxed way. I was training my mind that it was time to meditate and telling ego that it was time to step aside and that I was in charge, not it. Soon I was meditating for much longer periods and/or more than once per day.

Some of the benefits of meditation for this average human include:

  • Better focus on tasks because my mind is better organized
  • It got easier to identify what I wanted out of a given situation because I’d focused on it through meditation and could identify every detail in an articulate manner
  • It got easier to use my intuition because I am more connected to my higher self and/or higher power (this is not about religion)
  • Clearly defining goals and issues got easier because I’d given them the time and consideration that they deserved instead of pushing them onto the back burner
  • Communicating my intentions, feelings, actions, etc. got easier because I could approach decisions from a place of power and confidence rather than fear, such as a fear of saying the wrong thing or what would happen if I made the wrong decision
  • Helps me stay calm and focused under pressure or in emotional situations

There are lots of different meditation techniques and yes, there’s an app for that. Most people find it easiest just to start with concentrating on their breath, in and out, in and out and going on from there. Go on, try it. As a mother, I’m asking you, “Can you just sit still for five minutes?”

What are your experiences with meditation? Have you tried it? If not what do you think about it?