Review Tuesday: A Lady’s Heart by Vivian Arend

I don’t remember how I stumbled across Vivian Arend, but I’m so glad that I did. I love the shifter series (fantasy + romance) and the cowboy series that she has. They’re so entertaining. You fall in love with her characters so easily in these two series.

I think that I read A Lady’s Heart in about a day – maybe a day and a half. It was a quick read, with an engrossing story. I also really enjoyed the fact that the story was about Mandy. Readers met her in a previous book in the series. She was a character that you felt terribly for, and who you really wanted to get a happily-ever-after.

a-ladys-heartFrom Goodreads:

Lady Amanda Ainsworth found a safe place to pull herself together under the roof of the loud, boisterous Takhini Wolf pack. Safe—except for the sexy grizzly shifter with the oversized biceps and the steely-grey eyes who’s also hanging his hat with the Whitehorse wolves. Justin Cullinan makes her light up and shimmer inside like the Northern Lights, and she knows it’s time to start her new life.

He may be the bodyguard and not the CEO, but Justin’s powerful in his own right. He gets what he wants—and who he wants is the sweet seductive Mandy. He’ll go as slowly as necessary, but he has no intention of stopping until she admits they’re meant to be.

But when her safety is threatened, all bets are off. Justin’s going to keep his lady safe and find out who’s stalking her, and the best place is hidden in plain sight in the biggest shifter town in the north.

That is, if they aren’t running into a trap…

Like I said earlier, you met Justin and Mandy in an earlier book. In that book you immediately feel sorry for Mandy, and you instantly like Justin. So the fact that this book is about the two of them is awesome.

One of the things that I love about this  book is that Mandy learns how to stand up for herself. She decides what she wants and Justin helps her, in any way that he can, get it. It was so empowering watching her take bigger and bigger steps towards the person that she wanted to become. And I love that Justin always built her up. There were things that she wanted to do that she thought was silly and small, but he was always there to remind her when she gave in to self-doubt that if she wanted to do them, then they weren’t silly or small. It was simply what she wanted to do. Mandy gaining back her self-confidence, and trusting herself was a highlight of this book for me.

I also just enjoyed her and Justin’s relationship. There is a little zest of danger thrown into the story because someone is following Mandy and they’re not sure who is and what their motiviation is, but it does add  some heat to the story and to their romance.

In this story you also of course run into characters from previous books, and it’s just so wonderful seeing them all again. It’s like running into an old friend and playing a quick catch up. And what I like about it to is that you don’t run into ALL of the previous characters, just enough that you enjoy the catch up without being overrun with information that hinders the flow of the storyline.

There are of course hints dropped about upcoming books – there are at least 2 different sets of would-be couples, though one more than the other, that I’m excited about reading.

This was a quick read, and an enjoyable storyline. If you haven’t read any of her shifter series, and you’re into fantasy and romance then definitely give this series a go!

 

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Sunday Baking: Apple Pies

Two weeks ago my girlfriends and I went apple picking.

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It was my first time going and I picked and bought 26 apples. It was a lot of fun, and I got all excited about everything that I was going to make. I also bought while at the farm this fantastic apple peeler, slicer and corer. It is now my favourite piece of kitchen equipment that I own. It seriously cuts down the prep time for making apple crisp (one of my favourite things to make, and something that I definitely did make last week).

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This weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving, and so yesterday I made 2 apple pies for the first time and used up the rest of my apples from apple picking.  Now, full disclosure, I did not make the pastry for these pies. I most definitely bought them. I don’t have a rolling pin (adding that to the shopping list), but I wanted to make pies.

For all that I didn’t have to make the pastry, I was still apprehensive about making the pies. I’ve never made pies before, and I know that they can be super difficult to make.

For the pies, I used this recipe from 12 Tomatoes.

Filling:

8 cups cored, peeled, sliced apples
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2/3 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for top of crust
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
splash of water

Even though I was making 2 pies, I decided to do the filling for each pie separately. I thought that there would be less chance of me everything up, which turns out was not the case.

Once your apples are sliced, peeled and cored put them aside. Then in another bowl, you mix the sugar, brown sugar, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir that up until everything is mixed together well, and then add in your apples. Mix it until the apples are all covered with the sugar mixture.

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Then you pour the apple sugar mixture into your (in this case) premade store bought pastry shell. I found that I ended up with too many apples for the first pie, it started to look a bit like a mountain and the second pastry shell wasn’t deep enough to go on top and seal.

After you pour your apple sugar mixture into the pastry shell, chop up 2 tablespoons of butter into little pats and put them on top of the apples. Then in a little bowl you crack open an egg and separate out the egg white and the egg yolk. Discard the egg white, and stir up the yolk, and add a splash of water. Once that’s done, take a little brush, or if you don’t have one of those use a spatula, and brush on the egg mixture around the lip of the pastry. (It took me until the second pie to figure out the spatula thing because I don’t have a brush. That is also going on the shopping list.)

Then in a little bowl you crack open an egg and separate out the egg white and the egg yolk. Discard the egg white, and stir up the yolk, and add a splash of water. Once that’s done, take a little brush, or if you don’t have one of those use a spatula, and brush on the egg mixture around the lip of the pastry. (It took me until the second pie to figure out the spatula thing because I don’t have a brush. That is also going on the shopping list.)

Next, take your second pastry shell, flip it over, and cover your pie. Press down on the edges so that the pie is sealed. You can take a fork and make little indentations around the edges to give it some flair (or if you are more creative than I am, go to town with your design). Make sure though you poke some holes in the top of the pie so that the steam can escape.

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Finally you take the rest of your egg mixture and brush it onto the top of your pie. Then you take a tablespoon of sugar and sprinkle it onto the top.

Then you just bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes.

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This is what mine looked like at the end. They actually exploded a little bit in the oven and then spilled over. I think it might be because the shells weren’t deep enough or maybe I didn’t make deep enough holes in the top?

Also another full disclosure: The pie on the left I forgot to add the egg yolk to the top of the pie and then sprinkle sugar on the top until about 20 min into baking, so I took it out and did it and then put it back in. The pie on the right, I totally forgot to add the little butter pats to the top of the apples. My friend Natalie though assured me that it would still taste fine. We’ll see how this goes. I’m taste testing it on my family today and tomorrow 😉

5 Things: New Job, TIFF, Games After Dark, Babies and Blessings

This week’s 5 Things is going to amalgamate this week and last week because I completely forgot about this blog post last week. So here are 5 Things that have brought me joy over the past 2 weeks!

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After almost 8 months, I finally have a job! I’m working in marketing and communications at the Canadian Institute of Heating and Plumbing.

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Two weeks ago I saw a movie at TIFF called We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice, which was all about First Nations children and the appalling system and conditions that they live in. It was heart wrenching and infuriating to realize what is exactly happening on these reserves. It’s definitely a movie that you should see.

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Two weeks ago I was at a games night and I played Telestrations After Dark for the first time. It was hilarious and is now a game that I want to own. I’m putting it on my Christmas list.

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I’ve started knitting a baby blanket for a friend of mine’s new baby. The baby (a little boy) is beyond adorable. The knitting though is not going well. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had to rip everything out and start again. I keep messing up the pattern. I’m determined to get it however. And I’m enjoying the actual knitting (when I get it right).

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This past Sunday I went to Church for the first time in a long time, and I had a really good time. The sermon was excellent and the vibe of the Church overall is what I’ve been looking for. This past week was a “blessing of the animals,” which I had never seen before. People brought in their dogs and cats to be blessed. I think the cutest was a family with two little girls who had two cats called “Sugar” and “Spice.” Makes me smile just typing it.

As always my 5 Things is inspired by Cupcakes and Cashmere. Be sure to check them out!

5 Things: birthdays, mugs, sunsets, lotions and Olympic Gold!

The 5 things that brought me joy this week:

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My brand new mug! I got it at Indigo, and I’m very excited about it! It’s keeping the other mug that I have that says “I read past my bedtime,” company.

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It is one of my best friend’s birthday today! Shan is 29 today. And the exciting thing is that her birthday falls on our girl’s weekend trip to Niagara! It’s gonna be good!

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It has been incredibly hot over the last couple of weeks here in Toronto, and for me it’s so hot that it makes me not want to do anything. The evenings, however, especially by the lake, cool down considerably, and that’s when I start feeling awake and energized. This picture is from one night this week walking by the lake with Doug. Also how gorgeous of a view to have in your backyard essentially, am I  right?

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This is my new favourite body lotion. It’s actually the lotion that they use at The Westin in Ottawa, and I loved it so much I bought a couple of bottles at the gift shop. It’s so light and smooth and yet so hydrating (especially in this crazy heat that Toronto is currently having). Definitely one of my new favourite things!

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Penny Oleksiak has now won 4 medals for Canada at the Rio Games. 1 gold, 1 silver and 2 bronze. Also, she’s only 16. What a champ!

As ever my 5 Things is inspired by Emily from Cupcakes and Cashmere. Make sure you check it out!

5 Things: Oh Canada, anniversaries, jewelry & magical adventures

Here are the 5 Things that brought me some joy this week. As I said in last week’s post, this new series of mine is inspired by Emily from Cupcakes and Cashmere. (And if you haven’t ever checked out her blog you totally should).

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It’s Canada Day today!  We are indeed a mighty nation and we are 149 this year! We are the nation that brought you insulin, hockey, basketball, the zipper, MacIntosh apples, poutine, standard time, egg cartons, sonar, gas masks, the paint roller, and the electric wheelchair – just to name a few things. Today the day started out perfect for me because I woke up to the sound of rain, and then it continued to rain for a good chunk of the day and we even had a thunderstorm (Best. Thing. Ever.).

 

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This past Sunday was mine and Doug’s 6 month anniversary. I cannot believe how quickly time has gone by, nor have I ever been happier. He’s definitely a keeper 🙂

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I discovered this week that Jack Kerouac, author made famous by his book On The Road, is actually  a Canadian. I was mind boggled. Maclean’s wrote a fantastic article about him and his being Canadian (which is how I found out) and you can read it here. I’m definitely going to be moving On The Road up my to-read list.

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I bought this beautiful tree of life sterling silver necklace last weekend in Brighton from The Blue House. It’s a gorgeous store and if you’re ever in the area you should definitely drop in.

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This photo I saw on Instagram this week from ourplanetdaily, and it’s taken in Taichung, Taiwan. I fell in love with this picture. The stairs seem to want to lead you on some kind of magical adventure don’t you think?

 

Bell Let’s Talk Mental Health

Mental health is a serious issue. It’s also a serious issue that most people, societies and governments don’t take seriously.

This is a problem.

According to the Canadian Institute of Health Research, 1 out of 5 people in Canada will experience a form of mental illness at some point in their life.

1 in 5. 

That’s a lot of people. That’s a lot of people to not take seriously.

So if you are suffering, or have suffered or are afraid that you will suffer from mental illness please remember these few things:

  1. You are not, and will never be alone.
  2. You are awesome. Always.
  3. There is nothing wrong with needing help. Everyone needs help at some point.
  4. PLEASE get help, seek out help, shout for help if you need it.
  5. Help is always there for those who need it

Today is a day we talk about mental health. But it should be something that we talk about all of the time.

Let’s keep talking.