Light Me Up – a Cover Reveal!

I am super, duper excited to share the cover reveal for author Karla Sorenson’s new novel, Light Me Up!!  Is this not the most gorgeous cover?  It’s so well done and really does illustrate the title well.  I’m in love with it!  This is the second in her series.  Do yourself a favor, if you haven’t already.  Be sure to grab Karla’s first book, By Your Side, and give it a read while you are awaiting the release of Light Me Up!  You can read all about the adventures of Casey and Jake.  Casey is one of my all time favorite book characters.  She is stylish, fun, hilarious, and full of sass!  Karla is a fabulous writer and I’m very excited to delve into the story of Rachel and Tate.  June 25th can’t get here soon enough.  This is one book I’ll be 1-clicking over on Amazon!
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Light Me Up 

a Three Little Words novel

by Karla Sorensen

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Release Date: June 25, 2015

Cover Designer: Najla Qamber Designs

SYNOPSIS:

For Rachel Hennessy, it’s been an interesting six months. Boyfriend? Cheated on her. Job? She totally just got fired. Starting her own wedding planning business sounds exciting … in theory. In reality, it’s completely terrifying. And on top of all that, the freaking cherry right on top? She just had an ill-timed, alcohol-instigated one-night stand with her bff Casey’s brother, Tate. Yeah, that Tate. The one that she’s had a teensy, inconvenient crush on for years.

But nothing about it is ill-timed or inconvenient for Tate Steadman. Because he finally feels free. Free of the oppressive relationship he’d been in for the past six years. Free to pursue Rachel, because one alcohol-fueled night was not even close to enough for him. He just wished she saw it that way. Because she makes him want more than he ever knew he was capable of.

When their one night has unexpected consequences, Rachel has no clue how to trust that he’s not just trying to be ‘the good guy’ who wants to do ‘the right thing’. And even though the chemistry between them practically burns down an entire city block when they’re together, she doesn’t know how to let down the concrete wall she’s built up around herself.

The ‘mistake’ of one evening can change the trajectory of two lives, but maybe a mistake is all they really need to push them right into true love.

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Chapter one graphic

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You Just Know

My husband and I have been separated for one month now.  One of the dilemmas I’ve had is whether or not to remove my rings.  Here are some of the thoughts that often roll around in my head and argue with one another:

  • We aren’t divorced, so the rings should stay on.
  • We aren’t exactly married either, so the rings should come off.
  • In the eyes of the law and the church, we are still married, so the rings should stay on.
  • Everyone will think we are getting back together, so the rings should come off.
  • They’ve been a part of my left ring finger for over 16 years and without them, I will feel strangely stripped down and exposed, so the rings should stay on.
  • The raw truth is that I don’t know what to think or feel or do.  I’m hurt and confused and when I put these rings on in the first place, I did so with the understanding that they would never, ever come off.  I’m old fashioned like that.

I don’t know why this has been such a difficult decision.  Just today at work, one of my colleagues said, “I see you still have your wedding rings on.”  I felt so confused.  I didn’t know what to say, so I spoke the truth.  “I know.  It’s because I just don’t know what to do.”  But I wanted to break down and cry.  I wanted someone to tell me what to do, to tell me what was right.  I felt lost and so very alone.  Today is only the second time I’ve cried.

Tonight, he came over to pick up our kids.  We talked about a lot of things.  He casually said, “And when we’re divorced…” and it was good for me to hear him say it.  So I said, “Yes, about that… we need to talk about that.”  He just looked at me for a moment and the words just came tumbling out of my mouth.  “When are we getting divorced?  Because really, I’m just ready to get it over with and I don’t want to wait around.”  I can’t even begin to explain how freeing it was to say those words out loud.  I think they’ve always been there, lurking just beneath the surface, but never really wanting to be said.  To utter them out loud would mean admitting that indeed, it’s really and truly over.  When you grow up believing that marriage is forever… when you grow up believing that you don’t give up on marriage… when you grow up with a religious background that frowns upon divorce… when you get married and believe that you will be the power couple that proves all your divorced friends and relatives wrong… when you have that tiny space in the most hidden recesses of your heart that believes divorce equals failure… the hardest thing in the world you can possibly do is utter the words, “When are we getting divorced?”  The logical side of me knows that this is the right decision.  But that teeny, tiny voice in the back of my head still wants me to believe I failed.

Still, I felt free.  I feel free.  And after this dreaded yet necessary conversation, I walked into the house, cried for a few minutes, and took off my rings.  It was time.  There were no fireworks or big signs in the sky that told me.  Sometimes, you just know.

Paleo – 6 Weeks In

I can’t believe it’s been 6 weeks since I embraced the paleo lifestyle.  So much has changed and I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process!  Here are some bullet points.  Keep in mind that I’m essentially free-texting here and just spitting out thoughts as they come, so there may not be a lot of rhyme or reason to it.  I beg your forgiveness in advance!

  • Let’s start with the best news!  I’ve lost 20 pounds in the past 6 weeks, pretty darned effortlessly!  I have not exercised (although that is changing… more on that in a bit) and this has been due strictly to a change in diet.  I used to believe that if you exercised, you could eat anything you wanted.  I now know that thinking is backwards.  If you eat well, your body will want to drop the weight!
  • I’m feeling so incredibly good!  I started this journey because my resting heart rate was about 100.  I’ve been able to bring that down slightly, but I know that it’ll come down more with exercise.  I have felt so much  more well rested.  I no longer wake up in the middle of the night.  I sleep solidly.  I feel like I can think more clearly.  I don’t remember the last time I had a headache.  My body just feels better.  It’s hard to qualify that in words.
  • Perhaps a little too much info here… if you don’t want to hear about menstruation, then skip to the next bullet!  My period was so much better this last cycle.  Granted, I’ve only been through one since I started, so I’ll have to wait and see how the next one plays out.  My cycle was somewhat lighter and I found that I had FAR less cramping than I typically do.  That, alone, will keep me motivated!
  • My belly is smaller!  For me, this is a big deal.  It’s the one part of my body that I just hate.  (Note:  I didn’t say I hate myself, just my belly.)  I have big breasts and my belly was sticking out as far as my breasts were.  It’s an awful feeling and it is terrible to see in the mirror.  Now my belly doesn’t stick out like that and it really, really keeps me motivated.  I don’t want to feel that way again!
  • I’ve started receiving compliments from people, especially ones who haven’t seen me in awhile.  That is the best feeling in the world and definitely makes me want to stick with this!  I’ve been told that my skin looks better, I look like I’ve lost weight, and I am “glowing”.  I’ll take it!  (It should also be noted that I’ve been separated from my husband for about the same length of time and I have a feeling that is playing into things.  It’s been a good thing for us to be separated and I think we are both thriving and doing better because of it.  Life is strange that way.  I never would have thought that was possible, but it really is and I am very peaceful about our separation.)
  • I’ve been posting all of my photos on Instagram.  I’m sure that my friends are absolutely sick of seeing them all and I’ve very kindly invited them to stop following me if it bothers them… no hurt feelings!  I do it because I find that by doing so and using healthy, paleo hashtags, I connect with other likeminded people.  Not only do I get kudos from said people, but I also gather ideas and recipes from them as well.  It really, really helps me stay motivated when I look back and all of my food photos and see how far I’ve come, as far as my eating habits are concerned.
  • I’ve learned that I cannot have certain things in the house right now.  My son made the most decadent cookie dough EVER. I had peanut butter, oatmeal, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, and other yummies.  I could not help myself.  Not only did I eat a bunch of the dough, but I ate a bunch of the cookies too.  And… it made me feel like crap.  No good.  So I told him he has to make those at his dad’s house from now on!  Ice cream is another thing I just cannot have in the house.
  • Speaking of ice cream.  I cheated one day and had a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone (in a waffle cone).  I learned a hard lesson.  My body is really happy to be off dairy and it did not like me eating that.  I thought it would cause severe GI distress.  I kept waiting for the cramps and diarrhea to show up.  They didn’t.  But my bowels were just messed up for several days afterward and I developed some pretty significant cystic acne.  I never would have been clued in about dairy except that Paleo Goddess Diane Sanfilippo recently talked about dairy and acne in an Instagram post and the light bulb went on brightly.  It was the only thing I’d done differently so it stands to reason that this was the cause.  It is taking a long time to get rid of (and I’m sure that PMS isn’t helping).  Honestly, eating dairy now scares me more than eating grains or sugar!  My body obviously does not like it!
  • Exercise… the dreaded E word!  Ha!  No, it’s not dreaded… really.   Since I’ve been eating better, I find that my body wants to move again!  It feels so good!  I’ve started giving my treadmill some love and I’m going to invest in some good exercise bands in order to get a bit of strength training in.  I just cannot afford a gym membership at this time, but it’s on my list of things to squeeze into the budget once other things are paid down/off.  I also took the plunge and registered for my very first 5K!  I’ll be participating in a Foam Glow run/walk later on this fall with at least one friend.  I’ve registered and paid, so I feel very motivated to get ready for it!  Even if I had to walk the entire thing, I am going to do it.  But my goal is to run at least part of it.  On my treadmill, I’ve been doing some HIIT, so I’ve been doing small bursts of running.  I feel soooo much better!  I can do this!!
  • I’ve learned how to eat out and still make good choices.  Some people need to give up eating out and I completely understand that.  I’m a social creature in our society, social events often have food as the center attraction.  I don’t want to miss out on time with friends.  I also don’t want to be one of “those” people who makes others uncomfortable.  “Well, I can’t eat there because I’m on a diet” or “I’d go, but there is nothing for me to eat.”  No, no, no, no, no.  I will never do that to those around me, especially as they have been ridiculously supportive of my endeavors.  Eating out sometimes means getting something very small.  Sometimes it means ordering ala carte.  For example, instead of ordering a main menu item, I just order a few sides and make a meal out of it… like a sweet potato, a side salad, and a side of veggies.  Voila!  Sometimes eating out means asking for alterations and that’s okay!  I’m finding that restaurants are used to it!  In-N-Out Burger is awesome!  I can get a burger and all I have to do is ask for it to be made “protein style” and it will come wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun.  And sometimes, eating out means cheating a bit.  I just make sure I stay within my 85/15 parameters and I give myself permission to enjoy that 15%.  The funny thing is, I’m still very picky about how I cheat, mainly because I just don’t want to feel gross after eating something!  One of the very best things I’ve discovered about eating paleo is that I never, ever feel yucky after eating. I never have that overwhelmingly full feeling or that greasy feeling in the bottom of my gut or the increased heart rate after eating things like pasta.  I always feel so good after eating!  I never want to feel those things.  They scare me now.  I so I would never cheat with things like pasta.  Slowly but surely, this is becoming easier and easier and something I want to do, rather than something I feel like I have to do or feel obligated to do.  I am allowing my body to tell me what it likes and doesn’t like.
  • And last but not least… selfies.  Yeah, I said it.  Selfies!  I’ve been taking more selfies because by doing so, I find that I can see my features changing!  It’s very, very motivating.  Even more motivating than that is going back and looking at some older pictures of myself and seeing how different I look.  My clothes are also speaking to me and that feels great!

If you have read to this point, you get a gold star!  Thanks for following along with me!  I’ll write another update soon!  I’m only allowing myself to step on the scale once a week, max.  I will not become a slave to the scale.  I just want to listen to my body!

Paleo Naan – A Slice of Heaven

I’ve learned a lot about myself during this journey to health.  I’ll be highlighting more of that in a separate post, but I’d like to touch on one thing here.  I’m such a chocoholic and I love and adore pastries (especially brownies) and ice cream and milk.  I thought those were the things I’d miss most while ascribing to the tenets of the paleo way.  I was wrong.  More than anything, I miss bread.  You don’t really realize just how much you eat bread until you don’t.  We eat grains and bread-like things for every meal.  For breakfast, there is toast and French toast and pancakes.  For lunch, there are sandwiches of every kind.  And for dinner, the possibilities are endless.  I mainly miss French bread at dinner time.  Tortillas is another thing I miss terribly.

Imagine my happiness when I discovered a recipe for paleo naan that is not only easy to make, but tastes incredible!  A lot of paleo type breads just don’t taste that great.  They are gritty or don’t have a great texture.  I really, really like this naan.  I like it so much that I decided to dedicate a whole post to it in order to showcase just how versatile it is!  I have had way too much fun with this stuff!

     The best part about this recipe is that it only requires 3 ingredients (well, 4 if you add a pinch of salt).
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1 cup full fat, canned coconut milk

  This has the consistency of a thinner pancake batter.

  The recipe’s original author suggests using a nonstick pan.  I don’t own pans with “nonstick” coatings like Teflon.  I used cast iron and it worked well, but keep in mind that my cast iron is well seasoned and so acts in a nonstick manner.  If your cast iron isn’t seasoned (or seasoned well), then you may have issues.  The author said to cook them for 1-2 minutes per side.  Mine took a good five minutes per side, with the heat turned WAY down.  If I had the heat up too high, they burned.  If I didn’t cook them for much longer, the middle remained undercooked.  Yes, it’s a long time to cook these (and for the second batch I used a long, cast iron griddle in order to make more at once), but these are sooooo well worth the time and effort.  Keep scrolling and I think you’ll agree with me!

  This was the first one I made.  I ate it hot out of the pan, smeared with some delicious, homemade ghee.  It did NOT disappoint!

  Is this not the picture of decadence???  I took a warm (well, hot from the pan) naan and slathered some ghee on it.  I then tossed about a tablespoon of chocolate chips onto it and let them melt and then I spread the chocolate around.  Nope, these are not paleo-compliant chips.  They are 51% dark from Costco.  Sue me.  In my quest to eat paleo on a 85/15 plan, this small spoonful of chips was part of the 15%!  Guess what?  It was worth it!  If you want to be compliant, use a brand such as Enjoy Life, which is dairy- and soy-free.  I then sprinkled some cinnamon over the melted stuff and then topped with some cut strawberries.  The naan I show here was small, maybe about 4-inches in diameter.  Keep in mind that ALL of the strawberries you see were cut from just two berries!  Trust me when I tell you that this is absolute, heavenly perfection!

  Aren’t these just lovely?  Believe me… they taste every bit as good as they look!

  For this dish, I decided to use a naan as a soft taco.  Tacos are another thing I miss terribly.  I browned up about a pound of ground beef and a pound of ground sausage together with some chopped onions and then seasoned it with salt, pepper, and taco seasoning.  It made a ton and I’ve been eating it all week!  I added this meat mixture to a naan and topped it with some delicious grape tomatoes.  Olives are another great addition!  These are completely wonderful and the taste explosion was incredible.  It was sooooo nice to have soft tacos again!  I like the fact that these are small.  It makes portion control pretty easy.

  The next morning, I used the same meat mixture and added some scrambled eggs to make breakfast soft tacos.  DIVINE!

  Another view of the breakfast soft taco divinity!

  The next day (yes, I made another batch!) I took some to work.  I made some chicken salad, using a rotisserie chicken I had and some homemade paleo mayonnaise.  I added a kosher dill pickle and it was one of the best sandwich wraps I’ve ever eaten!

  Yesterday, as I was perusing the refrigerator for meal ideas, I decided that a good old fashioned BLT was in order, so that’s just what I did!  Homemade mayo, spread over a piece of naan, some lettuce, some bacon, and some organic tomatoes that were grown by a neighbor!  INCREDIBLE!

And last but not least, the pièce de résistance… this little dessert I created!  It’s much like the strawberry one pictured above.  Spread a naan with some ghee, melt some chocolate over the top, sprinkle with cinnamon, and top with chopped nuts (I used almonds).  It’s heaven in every bite!  I’ve also made another one with sliced bananas in it and it was equally amazing.

Go forth, my fellow paleoites!  Make naan and see how good your life gets!  If you make it, come back and let me know what you thought!

(Credit for this recipe goes to My Heart Beets!  Go check out her blog!)

Marinara Madness

I found a winning marinara recipe and I doubt I’ll ever go back to any other!  It’s even got a little kick to it and I’ve used it for several dishes in the past week or so.  I adapted my recipe from one found at Fine Cooking.  Here we go…

I started with one big onion and diced it up!


Next I diced a large, red bell pepper.


I chopped up 6-8 large cloves of garlic.  Use more or less to taste.  I like a lot of garlic flavor!

Fresh basil is key!  Dried basil is good in a pinch, but nothing really compares to fresh.  I chopped (maybe julienned is a better word) about 1/4 cup.


I sautéed the onions and peppers until they were soft, adding in the garlic at the very end of the sauté time.  (Garlic burns very easily so you always want to add that later.)  I also added in 1/2tsp of red chili peppers at this point and let the heat bring out the flavor.


Next I added 3 large cans and 1 small can of diced tomatoes, followed by the basil.  The original recipe called for whole tomatoes.  I decided to make my job easier by using pre-diced tomatoes.  I’m really glad I did.


Here’s how it looked when it was all done simmering!  I added sea salt near the end of cooking and adjusted for taste.


I had a rotisserie chicken on hand so I chopped up some of that meat and had it with the marinara.  Deeeeeelish!!  I’ll be making this every couple of weeks so that I have it on hand.  My kids can eat it over pasta.  I ate mine with chicken.  Tonight, I used the last of it with sausage and spaghetti squash!

Fermentation Fun

I miss having raw, homemade sauerkraut in my fridge.  I’ve been craving it a lot lately and I wonder if that’s my body’s way of saying, “Hey, we need some probiotics!”  I know that lactofermented foods can play an important role in gut health, which in turn affects everything else.  So… time to make some kraut!  When I first made kraut many years ago, I followed the steps outlined in Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon Morrell, but it never seemed to come out quite right.  I used to work with a nurse who is originally from the Ukraine and she explained that she has been making kraut since she was a little girl and she still makes it to this day.  When I told her I was following a recipe, the look on her face made me laugh.  “What do you mean you follow a recipe?  There is no recipe for making sauerkraut.  If you follow a recipe, it will not come out right.  You cannot trust a book or a piece of paper.  You can only trust your tongue.  You taste it as you are making it and that’s how you know you have just the right amount of salt in it.”  She forever changed my life that day and I am so blessed and grateful that she took the time to share with me the “real” way to make sauerkraut.  I’ve been making it her way ever since and it’s always come out beautifully, every single time.


I started with a medium sized head of green cabbage.  You can use purple cabbage too.  You can also add other veggies into the kraut, but today, I just wanted a traditional, plain sauerkraut.


I find that cutting the head into quarters helps with the coring process.


If I had a mandolin, I’d be able to cut the cabbage into thinner slices.  Since I don’t, I just cut it as thin as possible with a sharp knife.


A whole head of cabbage… sliced by hand.  My hand hurts now!


After slicing the whole head, I generously sprinkled sea salt over the shredded cabbage.  Then I began to toss the cabbage with my hands.  This takes time.  The cabbage will begin to pull the moisture out of the cabbage and it’ll start to “sweat”.  This is a good thing!  After I get a good “sweat” going, I like to tamp it all down repeatedly with a wooden rolling pin.  I actually do have a kraut pounder but it’s currently in storage.  Note to self: find that kraut pounder!


See all that water?  I didn’t add any water to the bowl.  This is all water from the cabbage itself.


Once I can pick up handfuls of cabbage and have lots of water come out of it when I wring it in my hands, I know it’s ready to be put into the mason jar.  I also have a fermentation crock but I only use that when I have a lot to ferment.  This whole head of cabbage won’t even fill my mason jar to the top.  Once I have all the cabbage in the jar, I pour any juices in the bowl over the top.  Then I take my fist and begin pushing the kraut down firmly so that the water will rise to the top and cover the cabbage.  This is really important!  The cabbage needs to stay under the brine in order to ferment properly.


And that’s it!  I placed a cap loosely over the top of the jar (very loosely… it’s only there to keep bugs and dust out).  You don’t want to screw the cap on tightly because gasses are being formed and need a way to escape the jar!  One of my favorite things about making kraut is listening to it!  Yes, I said “listening”!  As it begins to ferment, the live bacteria begin to let off more and more gas.  If you take off the lid and put the bottle next to your ear, you can hear all the bubbling that is going on in the jar.  It means your kraut is alive and well!  This jar will sit on my counter for a few days.  Right now our weather is warm and as such, it won’t take very long for the fermentation to “do its thing”.  During cold months, it’ll take longer.  The key is to taste the cabbage after a few days and see if it’s to your liking.  Some people like a shorter ferment and others prefer a longer ferment.

I’ll be back with a follow-up post about how the kraut turned out!

Paleo In a Hurry & While Eating Out

Sometimes, I need something to eat that’s fast.  I adore cooking and experimenting in the kitchen, but when I’ve worked a crazy, 12-hour 14-hour shift and I don’t get home until 9pm, the last thing I want to do is slave over a stove.  I thought I’d share a few things I’ve had that have made my life easier.


I created this “sandwich” on the fly yesterday.  While at Costco, I picked up a container of butter lettuce.  I know, from perusing so many paleo sites, that butter lettuce makes the perfect wrap for all sorts of fun foods.  Last night, as it was late, I wanted something light and refreshing… nothing too heavy before going to bed.  I grabbed some butter lettuce, spread a bit of homemade mayonnaise on it, topped it with some turkey and oven-dried tomatoes, and then folded it up and ate it as a wrap.  It was absolutely divine!  In fact, it was so good, that I had it again for lunch today.  There are endless possibilities for making butter lettuce wraps.  I think my next adventure will include tacos, using the lettuce as the shell.  Stay tuned for that!


Next up are these incredible deviled eggs.  I got tired of eating plain hard boiled eggs and decided to jazz them up a bit.  I mixed the yolks with some homemade mayo and some guacamole and then spooned the mixture back into the whites.  I topped them off with some fresh cracked pepper and sliced green onions and we were in heaven!  Even my teenage son, who won’t touch guacamole with a ten-foot pole, admitted that he loved these.  Win!


This isn’t the greatest paleo choice, but it’s far better than some other things.  In-N-Out Burger will fix any burger “protein style” (served in a lettuce wrap instead of a bun).  For this trip to burger heaven, I ordered a burger “double meat, protein, animal style”.  Next time I need to remember to omit the sauce.  This was far more delicious than I suspected it would be!


Here is another example of making choices when eating out.  Let me start by saying that I know many people simply quit going out to eat when they are trying to make better food choices.  I choose not to adopt that principle.  I’m a social creature and I enjoy spending time with my friends.  Unfortunately (or fortunately), many social gatherings revolve around food.  I’d rather be social with friends and make the best choices I can instead of becoming a hermit.  In this case, I met a friend for lunch at a new, local, Thai restaurant.  I adore Thai food and thankfully, I was able to find something delectable.  Instead of ordering my usual pad thai, I ordered a curry dish made with coconut milk, chicken and vegetables (and I skipped the rice).  There were a few pieces of potato and yes, I ate them!  This dish completely satisfied my craving for Thai food and I didn’t feel deprived even once.

My point here is that there are ways to eat delicious foods and make sensible choices if you are short on time.  You don’t have to resign yourself to staying home and avoiding social gatherings.  Just make the best choices you can!  Some people feel the need to be very strict 100% of the time.  I can’t do that.  If I deprive myself that severely, it’ll lead me to binge eat and I really don’t want that!