Thursday, February 28, 2013

Feature Friday - I love cats

I love cats, and I'm sure I could name them all from my first black kitten "Inky" when I was four or five. To my current "Cheetah". And I want to do that, so, if you love cats come back Saturday and I'll post my recollections. For now, it's almost midnight, my feet are cold, and I want to curl up in my warm bedyby and read a good book. Meanwhile, here's some interesting facts about cats. 

Decoding Cat Behavior

(Family Features) Cats are known as mysterious creatures. While some of the things they do can be puzzling at times, you don’t have to be a super sleuth to decode your pet’s behaviors.

Steve Dale, certified behaviorist, author and host of “Steve Dale’s Pet World” radio show, has answers for common questions about feline quirks.
What does it mean when my cat rubs her chin and body against me?
A lot of cat owners assume that rubbing is a sign of affection. What we do know is it might actually mean is that your cat is marking her territory. Cats don’t only rub their people in this way – they may rub up against doors, chair legs and the computer on your lap.

Cats have scent glands in their cheeks and sides. So when they rub on something, the cat is leaving its personal mark, depositing pheromones. This lets other cats know that they’ve staked a claim to a particular bit of territory – including you. So in a quirky feline way, it is a sign of affection.

When my cat sniffs something, sometimes her mouth is open and lips are pulled back – what is that about?
The feline sense of smell is much stronger than that of humans. While people have about five million odor-sensitive cells in their noses, cats have about 200 million. Cats also have an extra olfactory organ, called the Jacobson’s organ, located on the roof of the mouth and connected to the nasal cavity. So when your cat gets a whiff of something unusual or especially interesting, she will open her mouth and inhale the scent so it reaches the Jacobson’s organ. This intensifies the smell and gives your cat more information about whatever she is sniffing.

I’ve heard that spaying or neutering cats makes them lazier – is that true?
Spaying and neutering can help cats live longer lives, prevent unwanted litters and reduce territorial behaviors. However the hormonal changes that come with spaying and neutering can cause an up to 20 percent increase in appetite and an up to 30 percent decrease in metabolism. These changes mean that spayed or neutered cats are almost 3.5 times more likely to be overweight than other cats, putting them at an increased risk for obesity. Feline obesity is an epidemic and can eventually lead to other health issues, such as diabetes, arthritis and non-allergic skin conditions.

It’s important to help spayed and neutered cats maintain a healthy weight, ultimately promoting better health and potentially adding years to their lives. For example, the new SPAYED/NEUTERED line of feline formulas from Royal Canin helps control a cat’s appetite and support their decreased energy needs. Learn more about the new foods at

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

My first Beta Reader experience...

I just got my mss back from my new bata reader. Let’s call her BR. BR’s my new bata reader, my first experience with a bata reader, but we’ve known each other all her life. I’m two years older.

They say don’t ask friends and relatives to be beta readers. Friends and relatives don’t want to hurt your feelings and they want you to be successfully published so they can say they know you.

I’m not worried about that with BR, she wouldn’t let friendship stop her from telling you what she thinks. She’s smart, witty, and has a lot of life experience.

Among the corrections, suggestions and continuity questions, she put in one or two: Good!, Awe and a Boohoo.

Her questions and comments pointed out to me places in the mss where I could make the story clearer to the readers. As writers, we know our stories inside out and don't always get that down on the paper. 

But the best thing she put in her line notes was:

“I’m crying again, you rat fink!” 

On one paragraph about the heroine’s melding cousin, BR said: “I just want to slap her!”

Then a few paragraphs later, after the cousin said something that hurt the heroine, BR wrote: Slap!

And this is what she wrote at the end: 

“Wow! You really had me going, Christy. I got to a certain point and couldn’t stop. With a few details tightened up, I think it will be a page turner! The writing is really good. I like a book that makes me sputter and gasp and neglect my household duties.”

Beta Readers can be good for the writer's soul. 

Thank You BR!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday Features - A heart healthy salad

I love making dinner salads. Now that the weather is warming up - it's almost 50˚F today with a bright blue sky and warm sun - I'm going to start bringing dinner salads back into my menus. Here's one I'm going try. I like Chef Lafaso's tips below. -CO.

Deliciously Heart-Healthy Dishes
Chef Antonia Lofaso’s Surprisingly Easy Tips for Great Tasting Food for the Heart

(Family Features) Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women in the United States; yet, it is largely preventable with the help of a heart-healthy diet.

Celebrity Chef Antonia Lofaso, a fan favorite on Bravo’s “Top Chef All-Stars,” knows firsthand how important it is to eat heart healthy. Her mother was recently diagnosed with early signs of heart disease, and both women have been working together to make small changes in the kitchen. Here are a few of their favorite heart-healthy eating tips: 

Pantry Potential: Fill the pantry with heart-healthy surprises that add crunch, dimension and layers of flavor without too much salt, fat and sugar. Good solid flavor boosters include nuts or homemade croutons, flavorful soups as ready-made marinades, dried fruits for balanced sweetness, and herbs and spices. 

Swap it Out: Any heart-healthy eating plan needs to taste good, so consider swapping out ingredients in family favorite recipes, like lasagna. Consider subbing out ingredients like heavy cream and cheese with ingredients that naturally boost flavor, like acid from citrus fruit or even lower sodium cream of chicken or mushroom soup.

Look at the Label: When grocery shopping, read labels to identify high-quality ingredients and products that are heart healthy. Not quite sure what to look for? The American Heart Association makes it easy with their Heart Check mark, which indicates a product has met their criteria for a heart-healthy food. 

Chef Lofaso has taken these tips and put them into action with her fresh, seasonal take on Panzanella salad. With cues from her Italian roots, the addition of vibrant, seasonal fruits and vegetables, such as arugula, red onion and tangerines, and an added boost of flavor from Campbell’s® Healthy Request® Tomato soup, this dish is perfect for any night of the week or a heart-healthy lunch at work.

For more heart healthy tips, visit

Chef Antonia Lofaso’s Goat Cheese Panzanella
with Chicken, Tangerines and Tomato Vinaigrette

A fresh, seasonal take on Chef Lofaso’s famous Panzanella salad from her acclaimed Los Angeles restaurant, Black Market Liquor Bar, this recipe takes cues from her Italian roots and features vibrant vegetables, such as arugula and red onion as the base. Chef Lofaso substitutes  tangerines instead of a traditional tomato to add sweetness and acid, and boosts the flavor of the vinaigrette with Campbell’s® Healthy Request® Tomato soup. This dish is perfect for any night of the week and even easy to assemble for a heart-healthy lunch at work.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Makes: 4 servings

3oz crumbled reduced fat goat cheese
6 cup arugula
6 tangerines, supremed (peeled and sectioned)
2 - 4oz butterflied chicken breasts
½ small red onion, shaved
4 pieces Pepperidge Farm® Whole Grain 100% Whole Wheat bread
1T extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
2T Campbell’s® Healthy Request® Condensed Tomato soup
3T chopped flat leaf parsley
4T freshly picked basil
2T chopped shallots (or 1t of chopped garlic if shallots are unavailable)
½t salt & pepper

1.     Preheat oven to 250F. On a medium baking sheet, brush 2t extra virgin olive oil on Pepperidge Farm® Whole Grain 100% Whole Wheat bread and allow to dry out in the oven for about 15 minutes until bread becomes crisp to the touch. Break dried bread into 1/2 inch pieces about the size of a large crouton and set aside.

2.     In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together vinegar, Campbell’s® Healthy Request® Condensed Tomato soup, shallots and chopped parsley. Slowly stream in remaining extra virgin olive oil. Set aside.

3.     Prepare 2 - 4oz butterflied chicken breasts. Season with 1/2t salt and pepper and coat lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Place chicken breasts on a suitable high heat baking sheet and place in broiler on high for 3 minutes on each side. Allow to cool. Chop once cooled.

4.     In a large mixing bowl, combine arugula, red onion, bread, chopped grilled chicken, goat cheese and dress lightly with tomato vinaigrette.  Garnish with tangerines and fresh basil before serving. (We don't want the tangerines to break apart so just lay them gently throughout the salad to serve.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Teaser Tuesday a day late

Here is an excerpt from Chapter Two of HER SCOTTISH CEO
American artist, Marcie Winters, is sitting on the shore of Loch Leven in the Western Highlands of Scotland painting the scene in watercolors. Greg McInnis, photographer and CEO of his family's publishing business, recommended the site to Marcie the day before.

An hour later, as Marcie put the final touches on her painting, a car pulled up behind her. A door opened and shut. She didn’t look back; she wanted to finish before the clouds won their battle with the sun. Feet crunching gravel warned her someone approached. Then she felt him behind her, watching.
“Hello, Greg,” she said without turning. “Come to see if I took your advice?”
“How’d you know it was me?” He sat down next to her, a seriously professional camera slung across his broad chest, Bobby in his arms.
“I just did.” She scratched Bobby under the chin, then looked up into Greg’s eyes. He looked concerned. “You suggested this place, and you wanted to see my landscapes.” He looked so good with his wind-ruffled hair. A long-sleeved, dark blue T-shirt stretched across his muscled back as he leaned forward to put Bobby down to wander off and sniff the shrubs, pee on the rocks and take a drink from the loch. “Am I right?” she asked.
“Partly. I do want to see your landscapes, especially this scene; it’s one of my favorites. But I also regretted suggesting it when I remembered how isolated it is. I wanted to be sure you’re all right.”
“How chivalrous you are. I’m not afraid to sit alone, particularly in a place like this. I’d be more nervous sitting alone in the middle of some Glasgow neighborhoods.” Her racing heart was almost making her breathless.
He reached for his camera. “May I shoot you while you paint?”
That was a first. People often asked her if they could watch, but no one had ever wanted to photograph her. The wind whipped her hair, making her time in front of the mirror that morning wasted effort. She reached up to refasten a barrette.
“Don’t. I mean, don’t be conscious of the camera. I like how the wind plays with your hair. Just be you, ignore me.”
Hardly. She could never ignore him. He was too… too everything. She returned to her work, conscious of him standing, moving, crouching, coming in close. The camera’s electronic noises were easier to ignore than he was. Her cheeks burned. He made her smile. He made her self-conscious. He made her aware.
Done with the painting, she handed it to him. He sat next to her and compared it to the scene before him. “Superbly executed. Your colors and values are perfect.”
He returned the painting and she stowed it in her bag with care. 
He stood and held out a hand to her. “There’s a pub at Kinlochleven. Follow me, I’ll buy you a drink.”
“Okay.” She let him help her up, any excuse to feel his strong but gentle grip that warmed her to her toes.
As she put her bag in the car, the wind flung her hair across her face. She tucked it behind her ear and looked out over the loch again. Dark waters rippled, forming miniature whitecaps. “This is a beautiful spot. I will always remember it. So quiet, so wild and untouched.”
“Aye. But not untouched, just not overdeveloped.”
When Marcie turned to look at Greg, he was photographing her again. She made a silly face and slid into her car. He climbed into a white, mud-splattered Land Rover and she followed him to Kinlochleven, a little beyond the end of the loch.
They parked off the main street and walked to the pub. Weathered, wooden picnic tables with red and white-striped umbrellas flapping in the breeze lined the pavement out front. Greg had put on a lightweight jacket against the wind, his camera over one shoulder. He probably took it with him wherever he went, the way she always kept a sketchbook with her.
Marcie wore a sweater and a raincoat and was still cold. The temperature seemed to drop one degree with each cloud that scuttled over their heads. She sat with Bobby at her feet and people-watched while Greg went into the pub. Walkers and hikers ambled the streets with packs on their backs. A light drizzle started and was carried under the umbrella on the wind. A quiver of excitement tickled Marcie as she anticipated time with Greg in this quaint Scottish village. She hugged herself.
He returned with two glasses filled with amber liquid topped by a half inch of foam. “You cold?”
“No, not at all,” she lied.
“I thought I saw you shiver. We can go inside.”
“No, it’s nice here. I like to watch the people.” She took a sip.
“This’ll warm you. It’s locally brewed. Do you like it?”
 “It’s good. A bit stronger than I’ve had before, but good flavor.” She looked under the table where Bobby lay on his master’s feet. “He’s sure a quiet little dog. Or exceedingly well behaved. He hasn’t barked once at the strangers.”
“His previous owners had him clipped.”
“They had his larynx clipped. He has no voice,” he said.
“Oh no. Poor thing. He can’t be a watch dog.”
“He lets me know if he’s suspicious or alarmed.” Greg reached down and caressed Bobby’s ear, then sat up, both arms on the table. “Would you like to go for a walk? There’s a foot path from here to Gray Mare Falls. It takes half an hour there and back.”
“I’d like that.” The day was getting better and better.
When they finished their beer, Greg put Bobby on a leash. The little dog skipped between them as Greg and Marcie walked in a feather-light sprinkle through the small village. Across the River Leven they turned toward the mountain that hugged the glen’s north side.
“For a hundred years aluminum smelting supported this area. When the plant closed, the town reinvented itself. Now it caters to outdoor tourism.”
Marcie looked up at Greg as he told her the area’s history. A stray sunbeam refracted in the water droplets clinging to his damp, curling hair. His eyes changed from chromium green to olive green as the clouds opened further. She studied his face, more interested in the line of his jaw, the arch of his lips, and the texture of his skin in the sunbeam than in what he said. Studying people’s faces was her job as an artist, wasn’t it?
“There’s a rainbow.” He pointed behind her, then raised his camera.
She turned to look but the clouds closed again and it was gone. The bright spot of her trip would likely be gone, too. Greg would probably be going back to his home in Inverness soon and she would be moving on to Fort Augustus and Loch Ness. Alone. Alone hadn’t bothered her much before, but now alone sounded so… lonely.
So much for hoping there would be time to get to know each other.
They weren’t the only ones on the trail to the waterfall. A family with three small children stopped to examine some plants. An elderly couple bickered as they strolled the path. Two teenagers scampered off and on the trail, disappearing into the gorge ahead. Greg picked Bobby up as the little dog strained to take off after the teens to join in their fun.
“This is beautiful,” Marcie said when they stopped at a viewpoint. The scenery excited her and she took several snapshots, which she could paint from back home in her studio where she’d finish a few of the more detailed paintings. Of course she didn’t actually have a home or a studio since her breakup with Joel. But she wouldn’t think about that now.
She looked up at Greg and smiled. “I’m glad you suggested this.”
They followed wooden steps down the fern-blanketed hillside, crossed a wooden bridge, then followed a path to the foot of the waterfall in a narrow canyon. Bobby squirmed in Greg’s arms and he let the little dog down to explore.
Water tumbled from a crevasse above their heads. Gray rock turned black from the waterfall’s spray. Green lichens thrived in the dampness, mottling the rocks with fantastic patterns. The falls flared at the base, resembling a wind-blown mare’s tail. Bits of rainbow, stolen from the intermittent sun, danced in the waterfall’s spray. The water rushed over rocks and tree roots on its way to join the river. Beech and yew trees grew above the ferns. Marcie took a deep breath, memorizing the herbaceous fragrances as mist from the waterfall fell softly on her face.
After several minutes, they headed back the way they had come. Just below the steps that would take them to Kinlochleven, where the path narrowed, a racket of stomping feet and youthful whoops surprised them. Greg pulled Marcie effortlessly off the path with an arm around her waist. They lost their balance on the rocky dirt and Marcie landed against his chest as several teen-agers raced down the steps and past them to the waterfall. Alarmed, but feeling safe within Greg’s arms, Marcie didn’t move. She liked leaning into him. She felt his warmth spread through her as if she were standing next to a campfire. It took all her will power not to wrap her arms around him and lay her head on his shoulder. Would she ever get another chance to be so close? When she looked up she found him studying her, his gaze a caress. When his eyes dropped to her mouth, her heart rose to her throat. She thought he might kiss her. How astonishing would that be?
Then she was astonished as he lowered his head and his lips touched hers in a soft, warm exploration; brief, but memorable, making her incapable of movement except to lift her head and do a little exploring of her own. Then she did wrap her arms around him and felt his circle her.
Bobby tugging at his leash brought them both back to their surroundings. Greg touched a forefinger to her lips and smiled. And she learned another of his emotions: desire. She took a deep breath, unwound herself from him and stepped back to the path. He took her hand and they climbed the steps. It was a cliché, she knew, but Marcie felt as if she floated up those steps.
“Let’s explore the village,” Greg said. “Then we’ll have something to eat.”
“Okay.” She wasn’t cold anymore. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Friday Features & Recipes Healthier Pizza

Starting today I will post features and recipes on Fridays that I think have merit to help us in our daily lives. I will concentrate mostly on healthy meals, as that is my interest. I hope in the weeks ahead we all learn together a little more about how to incorporate heathy foods into our diets without sacrificing the pleasures that make meals enjoyable and 'dieting' easier. These will be everyday things we can all do. Nothing drastic or out of our comfort zone. So, "Get your pizza fix without feeling the guilt!"

See Recipe Below
Top Tips to Take the Guilt Out of Eating Out

(Family Features) Counting calories and carefully choosing every meal doesn’t have to mean you also punish your taste buds – whether dining out or on the go.

“When it comes to your diet, the best approach is often a balanced one. Practicing portion control, making smart choices and checking out caloric and nutritional information are all key ‘ingredients’ to long term diet success,” said Lyssie Lakatos, registered dietitian, certified personal trainer, and one half of the Nutrition Twins.

Here are some more helpful tips so you can eat smarter and put your guilt aside:

Know that it is okay to indulge a little. A diet with no room for small treats or portions of your favorite foods is incredibly difficult to maintain in the long term. Go ahead and order your favorite appetizer or a decadent dessert, but limit yourself to a tasting of just a few small bites. Ask your server to box up the rest or share the remainder with your dining companions.

Choose restaurants that publish nutritional information. Some dishes can be deceiving, so knowing up front how many calories an entrée contains will help you make better choices. Some eateries offer specialty items that are low in calories but big on taste. “Today you can find great food options like the new Sbarro Skinny Slice that will satisfy your cravings without expanding your waistline,” added Tammy Lakatos, registered dietitian, certified personal trainer and the other half of the Nutrition Twins. With only 270 calories per slice, this better-for-you pizza is topped with  roasted red and green bell peppers, portobello mushrooms and sweet, caramelized onions with a sprinkling of mozzarella and Pecorino Romano cheeses. 

 “What I like is that it’s perfectly portioned and topped with better-for-you ingredients so that you can get your pizza fix without feeling the guilt.”

When you’re craving a restaurant favorite but want to stay in, try an at-home recipe. Here is the at-home recipe for a satisfying skinny pizza that can be ready in about 30 minutes.

To skip the work and find a Sbarro eatery near you, visit

Sbarro Skinny Slice Pizza at Home
Prep Time:  20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 8

1          yellow onion, thinly sliced
1          tablespoon olive oil
1          package prepared pizza dough or crust
1/2       jar tomato pizza sauce (approximately 10-12 ounces)
2 1/2    cups fresh portobello mushrooms, sliced
1/4       cup roasted green bell peppers (packed in water), drain and julienne
1/4       cup red bell peppers (packed in water), drain and julienne
1          cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1          tablespoon grated Pecorino Romano cheese

To caramelize onions, sauté in a pan with olive oil over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes until slightly browned.  Do not burn.

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Roll out pizza dough on a 17-inch round pizza stone.

Spread tomato sauce evenly across the dough. Sprinkle mushroom pieces over the dough, and then evenly spread onions, green and red peppers. Top with cheeses.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and crispy and cheese is melted. Cool for 1 minute. Cut into 8 slices and serve.