What would you like to read? And a giveway!

Hello, Lovely Blog Readers!

I want to thank you for subscribing and reading. I really appreciate you being there! Since I know your time is precious, I want to make sure I’m in sync with what you want to read, especially because this blog has been all over the map lately. :)

Some of you may be with me from my Late Blooming Chef days, which was all about recipes and me learning to cook later in life. I started a separate blog, Confessions of an Oddball Adventurer, to share the fun and funky things I’ve been lucky enough to do, like mud runs and ropes courses. Then, I combined everything into one site, which went through a couple of evolutions. Now that I’ve moved into an RV and travel with my husband and two dogs – and started my own business – it’s been hard not to blog about anything and everything.

We all have so much going on that it can be easy to get scattered. I’d like to narrow the focus of my blog to what’s most interesting to you and me. So would you do me a favor? Please comment below with what you’d like to read from me. I’d be so very grateful.

And to show my appreciation, I’ll randomly select one commenter to receive a FREE copy of one of my books: Scammers, Schemers and Dreamers or the 5-Minute Guide to Diplomacy, your choice! Thank you, thank you, thank you for your input and for your readership!

My two favorite photo-editing apps

photo editing, photo editing apps, apps, iPhone, Camera+, Instagram, filters, clarify, photography, iPhoneography, pics, pictures, best apps
I love using my phone for photos. I have a fancy DSLR camera that takes awesome pics, but it’s big and bulky and kind of intrusive to whip out at times. So, I end up relying a lot on my phone. It’s easy and convenient. There are tons of apps out there to funky up your photos or improve them, and I use quite a few. But my two favorites for quick edits are Camera+ and Instagram.

Camera+ has been around since it came out for the iPhone in 2010, and it’s been super popular ever since. Its range of features and controls are pretty mind boggling. but my absolute favorite feature so far is the Clarity function. It crisps up any photo, making a so-so snap seem almost perfectly detailed. There are a host of other ways to enhance your photos with Camera+, and you have a lot of control over most of the changes. I am still exploring everything this amazing app can do. If you’re using an iPhone for your pics, you need this $1.99 app.

photo editing, photo editing apps, apps, iPhone, Camera+, Instagram, filters, clarify, photography, iPhoneography, pics, pictures, best apps

Original picture of Meeko, our Rat Terrier, taken with an iPhone 5S

photo editing, photo editing apps, apps, iPhone, Camera+, Instagram, filters, clarify, photography, iPhoneography, pics, pictures, best apps

Clarity in Camera+

It’s really obvious in this picture how much the Clarity function can sharpen the details on a photo as well as enhancing the color. You can practically feel the strands of Meeko’s fur, and the blanket looks so soft and cushy. Sometimes the Clarity function goes a little too far, so I don’t always use it. But it’s often just what I need to make photo pop.

PinkPostDivider
I used to use Instagram exclusively for the filters. I didn’t add any captions or check out other people’s stuff. Now I do, and Instagram has become a great community for me. I really like the dialogue that happens and the inspiring photos that are shared all day long. I still, though, really love the filters. The latest version of Instagram offers a lot more control and flexibility than it first did. Now just click on the wrench icon to adjust the brightness, contrast, and color temperature and saturation of your pic. And you can now easily adjust the level of the adjustments so you can easily fine tune. I particularly like to combine a filter with tilt shift to create a dreamier image or focus on certain area of my shot.

photo editing, photo editing apps, apps, iPhone, Camera+, Instagram, filters, clarify, photography, iPhoneography, pics, pictures, best apps

Rise Filter and Tilt Shift in Instagram

Like I mentioned before, I definitely use a lot of other apps, but these two are my go-to tools to get nice looking pics on the fly.

Kale Mixed Berry Smoothie

KaleMixedBerrySmoothie2 The other day, I found the Lipstick & Berries on Instagram, and I was smitten. Ashley’s pictures are gorgeous, and everything she eats is so healthy and vibrant. I feel more energetic and nourished just looking at her stuff! So today when I went shopping, I was inspired to pick up fresh fruit, unsweetened almond milk, Medjool dates and curly kale – to whip up a smoothie. I’d never tried sweetening with dates before. They worked great! I might not ever use anything else.

Be sure to blend this thoroughly, or you’ll have bits of kale and chunks of dates at the bottom of the glass – which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup frozen mixed berries (or fresh berries and ice)
  • 2 handfuls of curly kale
  • 2-4 Medjool dates, pitted (or other sweetener of choice)
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)

KaleMixedBerrySmoothie3 Directions:

  • Blend together until smooth.

KaleMixedBerrySmoothie1

Coast-to-Coffice: Gluten-free goodness at Cuppprimo

Cupprimo4
I don’t always get to meet the owners of the coffee shops I work in; when I do, they’re always nice. But I’ve never met one more exuberant than Amy Brown of Cupprimo. Sitting with a friend at one of the tables, she was joking with me and my husband from the moment we walked into her compact space, before we even knew she owned the place. Glancing around, I recognized her shoulder-length blond hair and sparkling blue eyes in the oversized photos that decorate the walls. The pictures include Amy’s husband and kids and lots and lots of cupcakes.

Speaking of cupcakes, they’re delicious here, even the gluten-free ones, which can be hard to make taste good. That’s probably one of the reasons why Cupprimo was featured on the Food Network show “Cupcake Wars” back in 2012. Aside from TV stardom, baking fresh gluten-free cupcakes every day is really what sets Cupprimo apart from other bakeries in north Austin. Cupprimmo always offers at least four GF flavors, and custom orders are more than welcome. The “regular” the cupcakes are freshly made each day, too, and they’re just as yummy as they’re GF counterparts.

The flavors range from familiar – Primo Vanilla, Double Chocolate, Strawberry – to fantastical – Lemon Pistachio, Drunk Pineapple. Be sure to try the Blue Velvet made of old-fashioned wedding cake with cream cheese frosting. It’s almost too pretty to eat, but that won’t stop you. Or, at least, it didn’t stop me! If you have flavor ideas, don’t hesitate to tweet them Amy (Twitter handle: @cupprimo). She’s very open to new flavor combos and very responsive on social media.

From a working standpoint, Cupprimo is a pleasant space to toil away on the laptop. There’s free wifi, a bar looking out over the parking lot, and small tables in the front. The back has comfy chairs for reading or conversation.

If I lived in Austin, Cupprimo would be a regular stop for me – but not more than once a week. With their scrumptious offerings, it’d be too easy to expand my waistline while emptying my wallet!

Cupprimo1

Cupprimo2

Cupprimo1b

CupprimoLaptop

Cupprimo5

Cupprimo6 Share the goodness!

Please subscribe to my blog. Scroll up to find the form at the top of the page.

Share this post with your following if you found it to be enjoyable.

Cupprimo3

Pineapple M&M Cake

PineappleMMCake2

This Pineapple M&M Cake is inspired by a cake I saw at an Iron Skillet restaurant at a truck stop in California. It was so pretty with colorful mini M&Ms on top and plenty of sweet pineapple filling between layers of yellow cake. I had a single, luscious bite and instantly had a very strong urge to dash to the buffet and haul the entire cake over to our table. Good manners kept me from doing it, but it was a close call!

Here’s a recipe to try at home.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk (to increase the pineapple flavor, sub 1/4 cup pineapple juice for part of the milk)
  • 1/2 cup pineapple filling
  • 1 can whipped white frosting (or your favorite homemade frosting)
  • 1 bag mini M&Ms

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Grease and flour two round nine-inch cake pans.
  • Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Add eggs, one at a time, and continue beating. Mix in the vanilla and salt.
  • When well incorporated, add the baking powder, and then the flour and milk a little at a time, alternating the two.
  • On medium speed, beat the batter for about 2 minutes, until thick and creamy.
  • Split the batter evenly between the two cake cake pans.
  • Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  • Set aside cakes to cool.
  • Spread about 1/2 a cup of frosting on the bottom layer of the cake, to about a 1/2 inch from the edge. Then top with the same amount of pineapple filling.
  • Carefully place the top layer on, and frost the top and sides of the cake.
  • Sprinkle the top with mini M&Ms.

PineappleMMCake1

You think it’ll never happen to you…until it does

ScammersSchemersDreamers
All kinds of people fall victim to scams. It doesn’t matter how smart you are or how old you are. It can happen to anyone.

When I worked for the State of Nevada’s Department of Business & Industry, I was chairperson of the Fight Fraud Taskforce, and I met so many people who’d been conned – or were trying to help a family member who’d been ripped off.  I spoke to groups big and small about scams and how to avoid them. Unfortunately, it was hard for people to be interested if something bad hadn’t happened to them, and I didn’t always have a lot of attendance at my seminars.

Problem is, once you’ve been ripped off, it’s really hard to fix it – even with a full staff of law enforcement and all the resources in the world. In ideal situations, it can take three to six months to get your money back, if you get it back at all. And, let’s face it. You’re rarely dealing with an ideal situation. Those who’re helping you are probably up against budget cuts and slashed resources. If the scammers are overseas, there are cross-border issues to deal with, and you can kiss your money goodbye for good.

I found that it was better to avoid the scam in the first place. Did you know that most scams can be avoided if you know what to look for? That’s why Richard Warren, a fellow consumer advocate, and I wrote Scammers, Schemers and Dreamers. The book follows a fictional middle-class, well-educated family as they fall victim to common, and very real, versions of consumer fraud. As you get to know Phil, Dana and the kids, you’ll relate to what they’re going through and how they get suckered into situations that outwardly seem easy to avoid. And you’ll learn how to protect yourself and your family. http://bit.ly/ssdbook