Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Cedar Fort Blog Tour: Willow Springs + Review

Here's a description of the book from Cedar Fort:

Crissa Engleson comes to the town of Willow Springs to start a new life when she attracts the unwanted attention of a miner – and falls in love with a handsome Express rider. Laugh and cry with Crissa as she escapes her past to find love and helps the townspeople along the way.

My Rating


My Review

Brace yourselves—here comes a convoluted review!

So...Willow Springs begins like many sweet historical romances, with a new arrival in town, a gallant hero who protects the heroine from the town "bad boys," and a quick infatuation. Eventually, though, what starts out as typical spirals into a story that left me glued to my Kindle in a mix of fascination and aversion.

The pacing is very well done, and despite the plot elements that bothered me, I had to keep reading to find out what was going to happen to our "poor" heroine. There are twists I didn't see coming—situations where I thought, "Oh, something will happen before it comes to that." Umm, nope. One thing's for sure: the author wasn't afraid of taking her characters to some pretty outlandish and creepy places!

The book is definitely a romance, but I could see how the author was influenced by Western novels where everything isn't just "sunshine and roses." In other words, the story travels down some dark and desperate paths. And the heroine, well, she doesn't always make choices I'd applaud. The other side of the reading coin is that, while I couldn't put the book down once the story reached a certain point, I also couldn't stop vocalizing my dismay with the characters and some of the terrible choices they make and the odd situations they find themselves in. I smacked my forehead in frustration more than once, I believe...

Willow Springs is a different sort of read than I'd generally pick up. It is "clean," but there is a non-explicit focus on sex (i.e.: nothing described, but there's a preoccupation with the topic, especially with certain characters). The subtle religious aspect is more LDS in nature, just as a point to note. (I've read a couple of the publisher's other fiction books that were in the fantasy genre, so this influence wasn't as obvious in those stories.) There's some violence and a back-story element that particularly bothered me. And the ending—especially compared to the complicated nature of the middle of the book—seemed a little too easily resolved.

While this book wasn't quite my thing, I did appreciate the stronger Western feel, as well as the risks the author took in deviating away from some typical romance scenarios. (Although most of my experience is with inspirational romance, so perhaps general-romance readers might not be as surprised by some of the twists and turns.) It was an engaging read, but for me, it went too far in some areas (both in situations and choices) for my taste.

*With thanks to Cedar Fort for providing me with a PDF copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

About the Author

Born and raised in Utah, Carolyn Steele was introduced to western novels at a very young age by her grandfather, the son of a gold miner. She has been writing technical and marketing communications for most of her adult life. Her nonfiction articles have appeared in numerous national magazines. She earned her undergraduate degree in Communications from the University of Utah. Married and living in Salt Lake City, Utah, Carolyn loves researching obscure history then weaving it into stories. She also enjoys family dinners with her children and grandchildren, photography, travel, golf, reading, and all forms of needlework.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mission: Contentment (The Sequel to "I Have a Problem")

I was so blessed by the responses to my last post, I Have a Problem. (Thank you to everyone who read and commented!) Though I certainly wouldn't wish my problems on anyone else, it is indeed comforting to know I'm not alone in experiencing the compulsive urge to collect books, and it's inspiring to know that this topic resonated with some of you, as well. And when I say "inspiring," I mean that I feel like this is something we can face together, something that some of you also want to do something about.

Some of you longtime followers might recall the Contentment Reading Challenge (2011, 2013). Although I created it and hosted it for two years, I never actually did very well at it, since the rules generally applied to re-reading books (and I always had so many new books to read). Funny, since I made up the rules...

But I value that state, that goal, of being content (Philippians 4:11-13). Not hating my blessings. Not depriving myself. Simply trusting and resting in the faith that God Himself is all I truly need, and fostering a spirit of gratitude for what He has given me for today.

And that last word clangs so boldly, doesn't it? Today. My tendency to stockpile books comes from an obsession with tomorrow. Every once in a while I'll actually purchase a book I intend to start right away, but so often I save up reading material for that elusive someday. And yes, sometimes those deals are pretty fabulous, I won't deny it! But like with many obsessions, the trouble isn't in the thing itself - it's in the attitude and the overdoing.

I know I'm in trouble when the simply joy is being edged out by guilt.

I'll give you a recent example:

I was checking discount opportunities for my next shopping trip (which should be more grocery shopping than anything else) when I found myself looking at the "entertainment" section and spotting a deal for 20% off a particular book. It's not like I had thought about that book much or even really wanted to read it or see the movie based on it. But the Goodreads reviews were decent, and I mean...20%! (I know.)

So I selected the deal and took my printout discount sheet with me. I spent way too long in the book/entertainment part of the store, browsing and agonizing. This one or that one? Yes or no? I finally threw it into my cart and continued on my way.

But when I got back to my apartment, I began to feel restless. I knew I didn't need that book. I knew I didn't even really want it in the same way I wanted other books. Yet the cover was so cool, and the story would probably turn out to be thought-provoking...and there was nothing wrong with wanting to read a good book. And there isn't.

Still, I couldn't shake the nagging feeling. I then agonized over whether to return it. Would I look stupid for returning an item for no good reason? Should I even make the trip to go back?

The short answer: I took it back after work the next day.

The longer answer. I was tempted not to make the effort, but I still took it back. And I still bought a Kindle book in the days that followed, once again debating between options, checking out reviews, telling myself this would be my last indulgence for a time.

To be honest, I'm just sick and tired of obsessing!

Have you come to that same place? defines "mission" in one sense as "any important task or duty that is assigned, allotted, or self-imposed." Contentment is important, and I want to task myself with seeking it, living it. This is Mission: Contentment!

Matthew 6:20-34 speaks of storing up treasure in heaven, of serving only one master, of seeking God first and trusting Him to provide for your needs. Even though the verses discuss food and clothing, I think the heart of the passage applies to all sorts of things we worry/obsess about, and what our attitudes should be toward all "things" that don't last.

Through God's grace, I want to take steps toward being more content. Here are some of my current thoughts on what this might look like:

  1. Reading the books I own. When I'm looking to start something new, may I look to my TBR piles first. You know, I tend to justify buying new books by saying, "I'm supporting an author." True - and as an indie author myself, I certainly appreciate people like me, LOL. But what if I started supporting authors more by actually reading their books...? (This goes along with the epiphany Rissi mentioned in her comment.) What a novel thought!
  2. Stopping the stalking - of Amazon (plus entertainment sections in stores, etc.). Does that mean I can never visit them again? Of course not. I just personally need to find a better balance of my time and stop giving myself excuses. No more "it's been a long day/week/summer/fill in the blank." I need to find a different way to "reward" myself... (That probably goes for my overindulging in sweets, too, actually.)
  3. Keeping busy. I have so many awesome and meaningful things I can be doing: writing, communicating with friends and family, blogging, walking, watching the movies I own, reading the books I own, etc. When I'm tempted to obsess, I ought to redirect. Embrace today and all that I can do in these hours I've been given that I'm too often tempted to waste.
My goal isn't to make this into an endless list of dos and don'ts that I'll never be able to keep. I guess my hope is that I can use this button and hashtag (#MissionContentment) to celebrate the victories. And I wanted to invite you to join me. :) When we make a deliberate choice to enjoy something we already own or focus on something meaningful when we're tempted to obsess, we can share a smile and cheer each other on. Maybe we can theme some posts around this. (I'm thinking perhaps some "Mission: Contentment Snack Size Reviews"?)

I'm not saying this will be the fix-all for my problem. As Ashlee so beautifully put in her comment, "God is always the answer." Only through His grace can we learn to embrace the right attitudes. And only through His grace can we hold onto hope through the times that we fail. Let's lean on Him, trust in His strength, and follow His lead, seeking to value what He values.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

I Have a Problem

It's nothing new. This particular problem has been my "friend" for many years - and, perhaps in some ways, has become more demanding and more unkind than at the first, when one would think the opposite to be true.

You see, I'm addicted to books. I wish it was simply the harmless and even enlightening pleasure of reading more than I ought. But it's become much more...than that.

Because I collect books.

The fact that I began winning online book giveaways years back only increased the urge.
The fact that I started book reviewing and receiving books for free only increased the urge.
The fact that ebooks are cheaper and deals are more prevalent has only increased the urge.
The fact that I now work for a publisher and have access to books day in and day out has only increased the urge.

And it's time I accept the fact that the urge isn't going to go away with just one more book.

It never has, and it never will.

 This creepy guy visited me one day during lunch at work. No, I'm not a fan of snakes. But the "sneakiness" and "slipperiness" associated with him fits the subversive attitudes I've been buying into, so here you go.

When I was in elementary school and got to choose books from our little library to read for class credit, I was happy. Yes, I had some books that I owned, but I didn't have a problem with not owning all of the books I read. So how on earth did I go from that sort of thinking to this compulsive desire to fill my living space and my Kindle with an endless supply of books that never get read?

I think it started with this wish to have just one or two books more than the one I was currently reading, so they could grace my desk and I would know I'd have more to look forward to after I finished. The collecting began in earnest in high school, and it's gotten progressively worse, to the point where I neglect all the nice unread books in boxes and have to have "just a few" truly new ones at hand. I browse Amazon like a gambler visits all the flashy slot machines.

I take my limited and valuable time, insert it into the Internet, and lose. Repeatedly.

And I never quite seem to learn my lesson.

These thoughts, as specifically pertaining to books, might not be meant for you. There's obviously a world of difference between someone who views books in a positive way and balances their time, money, and attention wisely - and someone who obsessively collects books like an end-times conspiracy theorist collects emergency materials for an event they can never predict.

I think I just needed to take this moment to step back and recognize my downward spiral, and the fact that it isn't changing despite all the other life changes I've gone through with moving, becoming independent, and navigating a new job. I have to realize several things.

1. Like with any other addiction, I need to acknowledge that it's unhealthy. I don't have as much time as I used to now that I'm working an 8-5 job - and even if I did, do I really want to spend SO much of the limited time I've been given trying to decide on another book I really shouldn't buy, when I've gone over the same options over and over again?

2. Like with any other addiction, I need help. I can't change this habit without God's strength and grace. And maybe just posting this publicly and knowing that you all are aware of my problem will help me to have a greater sense of accountability. Perhaps I even need to take that accountability thing a step further...

3. Like with any other addiction, I need to get to the root of the problem. I'm not sure I can completely diagnose myself, but the way I see it, I'm being ungrateful. Insecure. Untrusting. I spend more time looking at the books that I don't yet have than reading the books I actually do have. I worry that I'll run out of reading material, that I'll come to a point where nothing that I own sounds good to me. And I don't trust God to meet that need.

It's not a "need" like other needs, but God knows this desire of my heart, to always have stories to immerse myself in. To lose myself in the gorgeous artwork of a cover, the feel of a collection of words in my hands, the engagement and inspiration that comes from being a part of another story.

Does that mean there won't come a day when I'll lose all my books and have nothing to read? No, there are no guarantees. In fact, I know someday that will happen, because I'm not taking my books with me to heaven.

But that yearning in me for beauty, for story, for purpose - God can more than fulfill those needs, and He has blessed me tremendously already with more books to enjoy than any one girl could ever hope to own. And I misuse those gifts by having an improper attitude about it all.

I still have a problem.

I know writing this post isn't going to magically erase these tendencies in me. I'm not saying I have all the answers, or that suddenly I'm going to approach reading and book-buying in the right and healthy way from this moment on. But by writing my thoughts down...gaining some perspective and facing the's a step. One I think I needed to take.

More thoughts to come...

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Storm Siren Blog Tour + Review

Here's a description of the book:

“I raise my chin as the buyers stare. Yes. Look. You don’t want me. Because, eventually, accidentally, I will destroy you.” 

In a world at war, a slave girl’s lethal curse could become one kingdom’s weapon of salvation. If the curse—and the girl—can be controlled.

As a slave in the war-weary kingdom of Faelen, seventeen-year-old Nym isn’t merely devoid of rights, her Elemental kind are only born male and always killed at birth—meaning, she shouldn’t even exist.

Standing on the auction block beneath smoke-drenched mountains, Nym faces her fifteenth sell. But when her hood is removed and her storm-summoning killing curse revealed, Nym is snatched up by a court advisor and given a choice: be trained as the weapon Faelen needs to win the war, or be killed.

Choosing the former, Nym is unleashed into a world of politics, bizarre parties, and rumors of an evil more sinister than she’s being prepared to fight . . . not to mention the handsome trainer whose dark secrets lie behind a mysterious ability to calm every lightning strike she summons.

But what if she doesn’t want to be the weapon they’ve all been waiting for?

Set in a beautifully eclectic world of suspicion, super abilities, and monsters, Storm Siren is a story of power. And whoever controls that power will win.

Book Trailer

My Rating


My Review

In a word (or three): Interesting—very interesting.

As far as holding the reader's attention goes, Storm Siren has plenty of action, romantic tension, mysterious characters, revelations, and drama to keep the story moving. I got through the story fairly quickly because I wanted to know what would happen, what choices Nym would make, and how the romance would play out. To that I say, bravo!

As for the setting, situations, and motivations, I confess I'm torn. I certainly appreciate the creativity involved. Tackling fantasy world-building—complete with battles and politics—is no easy feat. I liked that the "powers" involve nature but are unique in that they go beyond strict elements. (For example, instead of fire, water, earth, and air, Nym can control storms and all the varying aspects of them, like lightning, wind, and rain.) On the other hand, I really didn't feel that I got enough history and back story to firmly grasp Nym's world and why certain people have these powers.

Now, this is the first book in a series (so more explanations could be coming in future installments), and with fantasy, I know you sometimes just have to accept that this is the way the author wanted it to be, so it is. But building from that slight disconnect with Nym's world was a disconnect between me and Nym herself, as well as the other characters. It was intriguing viewing their stories from a distance, but I didn't feel emotionally invested. Lots of deaths. Lots of injuries. Lots of pain and hurts. All sad, certainly, but I just never quite got into the hearts and minds of the characters.

Other things that bothered me: The not-quite swearing. (The characters use made-up words common to their own world/language, but the slang vibe and real-world parallels annoyed me.) The slightly uncomfortable romance due to awkward (not necessarily inappropriate) touching, apparently necessary to the plot. (Plus, the hero's secrets and ever-changing attitude wore thin for me.) Weird villains and societal norms. Ambiguity regarding the religious element and some of the plot points. The characters' attitudes in general.

For those who enjoy some of the more mainstream YA (young adult) fantasy and dystopian stories, this is an interesting crossover book that has some hints of inspirational fiction in it, but leaves that side of things sort of vague and "mystical." I found it to be an entertaining read with its fantasy setting, peril, and trust quandaries. But I personally didn't find it to be overly compelling. There is, however, a contemporary angle to Nym's character with those marks on her arms that might have a more profound effect on other readers.

*With thanks to Thomas Nelson, NetGalley, and Crafty Booksheeps for providing me with an e-copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

About the Author

Mary Weber is a ridiculously uncoordinated girl plotting to take over make-believe worlds through books, handstands, and imaginary throwing knives. In her spare time, she feeds unicorns, sings 80's hairband songs to her three muggle children, and ogles her husband who looks strikingly like Wolverine. They live in California, which is perfect for stalking L.A. bands, Joss Whedon, and the ocean.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Winner and the Lighthouse

Thank you all so much for your enthusiasm for my latest cover reveal! I'm so excited by the feedback for both the cover and the premise/blurb of How a Star Falls. I'm having a grand time writing the beginning by hand here and there, and I'm looking forward to completing the story and sharing it with you all in this next season.

Now, to wrap up the cover reveal:

Chickie B!

Congratulations, Chickie, on winning the $10 gift card! I've sent you an email, so be sure to check your inbox. And thank you again to everyone who posted about the cover and entered the giveaway! *group hug*

* * *

Since these winner posts are kind of short and only really exciting to the actual winner(s), I thought I'd take the time to add a few pics from my recent on-a-whim, afternoon outing to the coast.

How a Star Falls takes place on the coast - but back in my home county of Northern California instead of Oregon. Here in this pic, though, you can see part of Highway 101 (at least, I believe that bridge I drove over is part of it...). So if you followed that highway south a while, you'd eventually wind up passing the towns featured in my WIP. ;)

To clarify, these pictures were taken at Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint. It's a gorgeous spot, and this past weekend was my first time visiting the place. 
And here's the lighthouse itself! I spent several minutes sitting on a bench nearby, writing a few lines for How a Star Falls. They didn't have to do with a lighthouse...but just being near the sea is inspiring, and a reminder of home. :)

Here's a parting shot of the lighthouse. Can you see it on the bluff there? The location is incredible, and I enjoyed the brief hike. Beautiful day, beautiful memory.

What are you currently working on? Where do you find inspiration?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

How a Star Falls Cover Reveal + Giveaway!

My fabulous friend and cover designer, Lena Goldfinch (Stone Lily Design), created this cover last November - back when I had an inkling of a story idea that had to do with dancing and stars. (Not Dancing with the Stars, though!) My brainstorming has taken some different routes since then, but I've held onto the design all these months, awaiting the day when I could finally share "my precious" with you. ;) That day has finally come!

In case you missed it, I shared about where I am in my author life on The Heart's Spring the other day. The unfortunate news is that I'm postponing the publication of Morning Glory, Book 3 in "The Heart's Spring" series... But the good news is that, if you're a fan of clean new-adult (NA) contemporary romance, I'm planning to focus on How a Star Falls and *hopefully* publish it next!

A Cover Story

I won't go into the details regarding the inspiration behind this story - at least not yet! Let's just say that a very vague, poetic sort of idea flitted through my mind last fall, and of course I turned to Lena in my enthusiasm. She very graciously got on board - literally, as we started pinning stock pictures to one of our secret Pinterest boards.

If I'm remembering correctly, I believe we stumbled across the model fairly quickly. We looked at a few different poses, but Lena has a great eye for seeing how a pose can work well with a particular concept. I may not see it at first, but once she puts together a comp (a mock cover), I'm always impressed by how everything can come together!

As for the background, I pinned several starry-skies images, then shared a more "fantasy" style one on a whim. I noted that it looked kind of fake, but maybe it could work. Lena latched onto it because she thought it would fit well with what I'd told her of my premise, then she put together a mock cover that I really liked. There were just two issues: 1) The title, and  2) I wanted a tweak in the way the stars looked toward the bottom of the cover.

You would totally laugh at my original working title for this story. Seriously, it was pretty bad. (I feel like I should hang onto it to use as a weird "fun fact" in a future post...) I loved the way I could play around with one of the words through the theme of the story, but Lena ever so gently nudged me to go with something different. The title that ended up on the mock cover was Catch a Falling Star (as you can see above), which I thought would mirror too many other works out there, but Lena also suggested When a Star Fell and When a Star Falls. I ran with that and suggested How a Star Falls, so I could add a subtle season element ("fall") and use the title to direct the theme and all of its layers. Lena liked it, so away we went!

As for the stars, I wanted to portray a particular constellation element on the cover in some way. So Lena rearranged the stars behind the title, and this beauty was born:

What I Love: Where do I begin? Lena is not only a talented designer on a technical level, but she also has the additional skill of being able to embed the author's style and heart into a design while also guiding the author in a new direction. The covers Lena has designed for me have inspired me, and I believe you can see that in my writing. (For example, in the scene I added to Bleeding Heart to match the scene on the cover.)

Lena captured a magical, thoughtful mood in this cover, and I think it's simply perfect. You might notice that the title font is familiar - it's the same font used on the covers for all of "The Heart's Spring" books, so Lena's helping me to continue my brand in that way. The font for my name is more "space-y," in that the letters are spaced farther apart, and the style fits an outer-space look. I like it a lot! The contrasts in shades and colors are very eye-catching and mysterious, and the model's expression is one of curiosity, focus, and contemplation, which should work well with what I plan for the story. I love how a piece of the sky seems to be flowing from the light she's holding - Lena had quite a challenge with incorporating the model into this sort of background, but she did it so creatively and effortlessly!

And the special touch? That would be the stars in the lower half of the cover. Can you guess which constellation I wanted Lena to incorporate?

About the Book

How does a star fall? 
Quickly. Completely. Unexpectedly. 

Derrick Knolane escapes to Trinidad Head most evenings, avoiding his apartment and planning for the day he’ll break free of Humboldt County. Working in a music store might be fine for a while, but it’s far from the goal he had in mind when he got his college degree. Not to mention the fact that his roommate is a jerk and his family won’t stop trying to run his life.

Then Brielle falls into his world.

She claims to be a star. Not from Hollywood, but from heaven. He thinks she’s crazy. Certainly delusional. Yet, he can’t just leave her alone on the cliffs. So he takes her home.

And his whole world falls apart.

A heartfelt and fanciful contemporary romance novella, How a Star Falls explores the uncertain season of new adulthood and shows that sometimes the worst inconveniences make for the best miracles of all.

NA Contemporary Romance Novella, Coming Fall 2014

A Little Giveaway

A cover reveal is always an exciting occasion, so we've got to celebrate in some way, right? I'm giving away a $10 gift card, and you can enter using the Rafflecopter form below!

Cover Reveal Participants

I'm always grateful for the wonderful blogging friends who share my enthusiasm and help me spread the word about my books! I recently put together a street team (Amber's Gems), and most of these bloggers are involved in that. If you'd like to join up so you can stay in the loop and opt into my future blog tours and cover reveals, please feel free to sign up HERE. 

Here's a list of the awesome bloggers participating in today's cover reveal:
You should be able to read a bit more about Lena and I on their blogs, as well as learn others' thoughts on the cover, so I do hope you'll visit them!

What are your thoughts on the cover? Does this sort of book appeal to you?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Cedar Fort Blog Tour: One Dirty Bowl (Review + Recipe + Pictures)

Here's a description of the book from Cedar Fort:

Create delicious desserts without making a mess! One Dirty Bowl indulges your sweet tooth while getting you out of the kitchen in no time. Whip up showstopping desserts like --White Chocolate and Strawberry Cupcakes --Very Vanilla Brownies --Hazelnut Puffs --3X Chocolate Cookies. From Christina Dymock, author of Young Chefs and The Hungry Family Slow Cooker Cookbook, this cookbook will impress your guests and satisfy any craving. And these quick, tasty desserts only dirty one bowl, which means more time with your family and friends at the table. Fast desserts, faster cleanup—grab a bowl and get ready to bake!

My Review

One Dirty Bowl...but a wide variety of desserts! I enjoyed browsing through the bright, color-coded sections of this cookbook and peeking at the tasty-looking pictures scattered in between the recipes. The layout is simple and helpful: the ingredients are listed in an easy-to-see fashion, the amount each recipe will make is clearly noted under the dessert titles, and the writing itself is fun and flows well.

Some of the recipes require more ingredients and effort than what I'd probably invest at this particular stage in my life, but they still seem fairly simple, and something to try someday! (Maybe when I visit home and have access to my mom's fridge and dishes? *wink*)

What's missing: Well, I'd love for there to be pictures of all the recipes, and a little conclusion to wrap things up at the end would be nice. Otherwise (having tried one recipe so far, which was super easy and tasty), I think it's great, and there are even helpful measuring equivalents and an index in the back. Sweet!

*With thanks to Cedar Fort for providing me with a PDF copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Now available on Amazon (hard copy and Kindle ebook) and Barnes & Noble (hard copy and Nook ebook)! 

My Cooking Adventure

I decided that in order to give an authentic review of a cookbook, I ought to try one of the recipes (and the author gave me permission to share one with you all). I picked something pretty simple that would be easy on the budget and on my time (not to mention the fact that it's chocolate - that seems like a no-brainer, right?). So here it is, with my comments in blue...

Chocolate Crispy Bars

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 25 large marshmallows
  • 4 cups crispy rice cereal
Crisp Rice Cereal from Trader Joe's and chocolate chips and marshmallows from Target


Spray a 9 x 9 baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

Amber: I went with a larger pan. I think it's 13 x 9, but don't quote me on that. The reason I used it? My 8 x 8 still holds some brownies, and I'm working on building up my cooking resources, so I don't have a ton of baking pans just yet.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat.

Amber: I can do this! LOL.

Add the chocolate chips and marshmallows and stir well.

Continue stirring until the marshmallows are melted and the mixture is smooth.

Amber: I turned up the heat just a bit to speed up the process. I stayed in the medium-low range. It still took a few minutes, but not so bad!

Add the crispy rice cereal and stir to coat.

Pour the mixture into the pan and spread it out evenly. You can spray your hands with nonstick cooking spray to press the mixture into the pan if needed. Allow to set before cutting.

Amber: I didn't have to spray my hands - the mixture spread without much struggle on my part.

The recipe is supposed to make 9 servings, but I guess I'm getting more (albeit thinner) bars this way. 

And the verdict? Yum! I confess I like how thin these are - I think it makes them easier to eat. Mine didn't turn out super sticky, and they came out of the pan nice and easy. I really like the texture, and - of course - the chocolatey goodness! 

And guess what? Besides the utensils/measuring cups and the baking pan, it only took one dirty bowl. *wink*

About the Author

Christina Dymock graduated from the University of Utah with a B.S. in Public Relations. She has been published in Woman’s World Magazine and several Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and she is the author of 101 Things to do With Popcorn. She resides in Central Utah with her husband and four children. You can follow their cooking adventures at

Monday, August 4, 2014

"I Have Confidence in Me"

My dad nailed it when he told me the one thing that might hold me back in my new job is confidence - or the lack thereof. I'm at the point where I've got a full plate, with a number of exciting possibilities and responsibilities...but I have the tendency to keep seeking approval on every little step instead of moving forward in strong strides. Can you relate?

Then this song and these notes of advice are for you, as well as for me! (Snippets of lyrics from "I Have Confidence" by Rodgers & Hammerstein are in italics.)

Oh, I must stop these doubts, all these worries....

I must dream of the things I am seeking: 
I am seeking the courage I lack -

The courage to serve them with reliance;
Face my mistakes without defiance;
Show them I'm worthy, and while I show them,
I'll show me!

Note to Self #1:

You're going to make mistakes. You're young, you're new - and you're not perfect. Be humble enough to face them and be better for them. Remember what your coworkers and supervisors have told you: Some things just aren't worth sweating over. Let the little things go so you can focus your energy on all those exciting projects you have to tackle.


So let them bring on all their problems - 
I'll do better than my best.
I have confidence they'll put me to the test,
But I'll make them see I have confidence in me.

Somehow I will impress them....

Note to Self #2:

You were hired for a reason. This is what you've studied and warmed up for. And your supervisors believe in you, as they've said in both their words and the very fact that they've hired you. So have confidence! You're where you need to be, with the skills and grace and support you need to do your very best.

The longer you work here, the more they'll "put you to the test." What sort of place would it be without room to grow and improve - not only yourself, but also as part of the company? Don't get overwhelmed. Stay organized, and do "better than your best" because you're grateful to be here and you're excited to be doing what you love. Don't forget that!


With each step I am more certain,
Everything will turn out fine.
I have confidence the world can all be mine.
They'll have to agree I have confidence in me!

Note to Self #3:

Celebrate the victories, big and small. Let confidence breed confidence. Trust that God's taking care of you, and trust that He's caring for your coworkers and the company. As your supervisor said, this isn't life and death. (God's already got that covered.) So take charge of the tasks you've been given, and let your confidence shine. You and the company are going places!


Strength doesn't lie in numbers.
Strength doesn't like in wealth.
Strength lies in nights of peaceful slumbers....

Note to Self #4:

...get some sleep. You'll thank me in the morning.