Monday, December 30, 2013

Album Review: Charles Szczepanek - Winter Day Dreaming

Artist: Charles Szczepanek

Album: Winter Day Dreaming

Review by Andrea Guy

There has probably never been another CD so appropriately named as Charles Szczepanek's

Winter Day Dreaming. This collection of instrumental holiday tunes will put anyone in a festive mood.

Winter Day Dreaming consists of nine holiday favorites played by Charles Szczepanek and two

original compositions. This is the perfect addition to anyone's holiday music collection. Solo

piano brings a wintry element to the music. The tinkling of the keys seems to add a chill to the


Holiday music is something people love or hate. There's no way that you can hate the music

of Winter Day Dreaming. Though the songs are nearly all classics, their is nothing cheesy or

gimmicky about the arrangements that Charles has done. These are just songs that everyone

knows, stripped down to their barest, just a piano bringing their melodies to life.

Whether you are listening to "What Child Is This" or "O Holy Night" you'll feel like you are in

an intimate setting, perhaps in front of the tree, or the fire, with hot cocoa at hand. Whatever you

visualize, you'll probably feel the stillness and peacefulness of the music.

"O Holy Night" has a particularly quiet arrangement. This is a song that is usually comes with a

full orchestra, and yet, Charles brings it down a notch or two. It is so calm and so soothing. The

piano almost sounds like a music box playing.

"Silent Night" has a similar arrangement. It is hard to give words to the music that Charles has

created. It is easy to string adjectives along, such as beautiful, stunning, gentle and calming, but

those only touch the tip of what he's done here.

"Silent Night" is now a lullaby and that is perfect when you think of the lyrics that you aren't

hearing. (Even though they play through your head with each note.)

Charles does a marvelous job with "Carol Of The Bells." The keys ring out the tune, as lively as

any bells could do and without fanfare. This is probably the most energetic melody on the album,

especially as the melody reaches the crescendo.

"Snowfall" is one of Charles' original compositions. The arrangement, like those on the

traditional tunes, is one of lightness. This is music that is very visual. Without even knowing the

title of the song, you can easily picture a blanket of white covering a country landscape and feel a

bite of cold in the air.

"Winter Day Dreaming" has a lilting melody. It is easy to imagine this song in the background of

a holiday film, probably a romantic comedy. It would be playing as the guy finally gets the girl.

One of the most beautiful songs found in this collection is "Angels We Have Heard On High." As

Charles' fingers glide over the keys, it may be hard not to sing along with the melody, though the

piano keys do some lovely singing of their own. Charles has some drama and flair towards the

end allowing the song to pack a nice punch.

The album closes with "Auld Lang Syne" which is appropriate. Christmas is over and the New

Year is waiting. The solo piano seems to sound lonely sending off the old year.

In a world where big and flashy things are all the norm, Charles Szczerpanek delivers a holiday

album that is just the opposite. This album is beautiful in all its simplicity. One man, one piano

and eleven songs that will fill you with holiday spirit even in the middle of summer.

If you are looking for something that isn't all glitz and glamour for your holiday music collection,

Winter Day Dreaming is the CD you must have.

Rating: 5 (out of 5 stars)

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Promo Spot: The Trust Me Trilogy

Trust Me?
The Trust Me? Trilogy
Book 1
KE Osborn

Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance

ISBN: 9780992333805

Number of pages: 283 pages
Word Count: approx 89,000

Book Description:

This book is for mature audiences 18+ It contains explicit language and sexual content.

Jenifer Taylor is content with her life, dull and boring as it is. Being absent from the dating scene means she doesn’t have to deal with the major trust issues she has with men that stem from a controlling and aggressive ex-boyfriend and an absentee father.  She’s happy being alone, sharing her life with her friends and family.

When Jeni starts a typical day in the big city of Mornington Vale, California, it turns from bad to worse when she’s involved in a chain collision on her way to work.
Her world changes forever that day because she meets Aiden O’Connell, the billionaire son of Alistair O’Connell, who owns Mornington Vale’s largest financial corporation. Aiden is an up-and-coming young businessman who's ready to take on the vice presidency of his father’s company. He is the good son, and it’s imperative to Alistair that Aiden succeed and follow in his footsteps. Life for Aiden involves working hard and not much else.

After the accident, however, Aiden’s world changes as well. He finds Jeni irresistible and instantly pursues her. With some coaxing, she eventually agrees to a date, and the attraction is mutual.

Jeni finds love quickly with Aiden, but trusting him is another issue.  When to trust is tested in many different ways but comes to a head when Aiden is investigated for a serious crime.  As her trust issues spark, she is forced to go through a journey of self-discovery.

She must decide once and for all whether she trusts the man she loves when she’s asked the ultimate question: “Do you trust me?”

This is book one in a series of three.  Book two "Love Me?" was released on November 18th, 2013.

Short Excerpt Trust Me?

I turn to face him; he puts his other arm around me. We are in the same position as before when the last kiss attempt failed. My arms are tight around his neck, his arms around my waist. I look down. He lifts up my chin so I’m lost in his gaze. His hand goes back to my waist. He swallows; I think he’s as nervous as I am. He tilts his head and leans in … I back away quickly.
“What’s wrong?” he asks, looking hurt.
“Oh, no, it’s not you. I think … I might have garlic breath.”
He laughs and pulls me back to him. “So do I.” He pulls me in tighter, and before I know what’s happening, his lips are on mine. I give in and surrender to him completely.
This feels like one of my fantasies, only way, way better. He holds me tight as one hand moves from my waist to caress my cheek, kissing me softly but sensually. My hands move to the back of his head, and I grab a lock of hair in each hand. He moves our bodies so that I’m against the railing at the edge of the deck. He moves his hand from my waist to hold the rail as I still grasp his hair. The kissing becomes feverishly passionate; his tongue against mine as they intertwine with each other. Our breathing becomes faster and erratic. Our kissing becomes more intimate. We are in perfect sync with each other. I pull him closer to me, our whole bodies touching. My heart is pounding fast and hard. His hand moves from my face to the back of my head, pulling me tight. He moves my hair from the side of my neck, breaks our kiss and kisses my neck slowly and seductively. I sigh and breathe in a stuttering motion. I open my eyes to see the waitress standing there, gawking at us. I stiffen as I see her. He pulls back and looks at me. With my eyes, I gesture toward the waitress. He turns, looks, and lets out a little huff. He leans in towards me.
“Now that’s a first kiss,” he whispers as he grabs my hand and leads me over to the table. I can’t help but smile.

Love Me?
The Trust Me? Trilogy
Book 2
KE Osborn

Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance

ISBN: 9780992333812

Number of pages: 271
Word Count:87,000

Book Description:

This book is for mature audiences 18+ It contains explicit language and sexual content.

In the first book of The Trust Me? Trilogy, Jeni Taylor finds the love of her life, but as the second book begins, she finds herself lost without Aiden O’Connell, who’s been wrongly convicted of embezzlement charges and incarcerated. She must find the strength within to help prove he’s innocent while dealing with other issues. Aiden’s father, Alistair, still taunts her, making life between Jeni and Aiden more difficult, and an unexpected visitor enters their lives, creating havoc and turning it upside down. Jeni’s trust issues return in a major way after an incident leaves her fragile and broken. Aiden and Jeni find themselves going through more trials and tribulations than ever before in this second installment of the Trust Me? Trilogy. In the end, Jeni will be asked the ultimate question: Do you still love me?


Short Excerpt Love Me?

       My nerves start to get the better of me, I start to feel nauseous; those darn pesky butterflies attack again. I’m not sure why I’m nervous, whether it’s the shoes making me unstable or whether it’s the memory of our first date, our first touch, or our first kiss that’s making me bashful.
       I turn the corner to see him standing there with a bunch of red roses, in the suit that he changed into earlier, this time with a baby pink tie on. Behind him is that gorgeous waterfall cascading down the cliff with the lush greenery surrounding us. As I take a step closer, I hear music playing. “Thank You for Loving Me” by Bon Jovi. It’s our song. I feel my eyes welling up as all the emotion and love I feel for this man is becoming too much to bear.
       His smile is beaming from ear to ear when I approach. Finally I reach him. He holds out his hand for me to take. I take it, and he pulls me into a tight embrace.
       “This is perfect,” I whisper.
       “Perfection for perfection, my love.” He kisses my cheek, and places the bouquet of flowers on the railing.

About the Author:

K E Osborn is the Adelaide based Author of the Trust me? Trilogy, a romance series with love, laughter and plenty of lust!

K E Osborn was born in September 1984 and raised in Adelaide South Australia. She had a love of writing throughout High School but went down a different path to Design instead. It wasn't until she had a vivid dream about a three car pileup that the characters of her first book came to life.

Aiden and Jeni are the amazing couple from the Trust me? Trilogy and they were born into the world through the imagination of K E Osborn in 2012.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Tasty Ham Salad

If you are looking for something quick and easy to make with your leftover ham, this super tasty sandwich spread is definitely the thing.

I improvised my recipe from Mr. Food.

2 cups cooked cubed ham
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sweet pickle relish
1/4 tsp pepper
1/3 cup onion

Place all the ingredients in a food processor with the blade attachment.
Chop 1 minute on medium then scrape the sides of the bowl and then chop again until you reach your desired consistency.

Serve immediately or chill

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Oreo Cream Cheese Cookies

I found the recipe for these yummy cookies at Crumbs and Chaos

The original recipe only made 18 cookies, so I did some doubling and some tweaking (tweaking not twerking..m'kay!)

1 cup butter, softened
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 cup flour
1 cup dark chocolate morsels
26 oreo cookies, crushed (Double stuffed ...and even good generic oreos save some cash)


 Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until smooth and well combined.

Add the sugar and vanilla and mix until the ingredients are well combined.

Add the flour and mix on low until the flour is incorporated. Stir in the mini chocolate chips with a rubber spatula.

Place the Oreo crumbs in a small bowl.

Create 1½" balls and then roll in the cookie crumbs. (I do mine smaller, cos I don't like big cookies)

Place the cookie balls on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the edges are golden and the tops are slightly puffed.

Cool on the pan before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes approximately 4 dozen cookies.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Damn Snow

OK, Google has come up with something that makes your pictures come alive.

Usually I don't get all excited about stuff like that, but OMG it added snow to my snow picture!

I have to admit when I first saw the picture I let out a loud squee.

Yes, my friends, I am very easily amused

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Album Review: Erasure - Snow Globe

There are some artists that you just can't imagine putting out a full Christmas album, but when they do, you are so happy you could burst.

That's the case with Erasure's Snow Globe.

The album opens with the stunning "Bells Of Love" which really isn't holiday or winter related, but it is one of the strongest songs on the album. It is the one song that will stick with you all year long.

"Gaudete" is the album's lead single. It is songs such as this that show off Andy Bell's vocals. It leaves the listener breathless. It is a medieval song of praise written sometime between the 15th and 16th century.

Next up is "Make It Wonderful" another Erasure original that feels Christmasy but really is pure Erasure and not really holiday related at all, yet somehow it fits perfectly among all the other more festive tunes.

"Sleep Quietly" is a haunting carol. Vince Clarke provides an appropriately dark and atmospheric melody of bleeps and bloops.

Erasure recorded "Silent Night" many years back and Snow Globe wouldn't be complete without this song making an appearance. This is a song that so many have covered, some good, some bad and in the case of Erasure, some magnificent. If you are a religious person, you may feel like you are in the presence of angels when you hear Andy Bell sing this.

"Loving Man" is another departure from the festive fun. This song is fun and just what you'd expect from Erasure. It makes you want to get up and dance.

Vince Clarke once again brings some interesting electronic sounds to the standard "The Christmas Song." It is probably one of the weaker tracks on the album, mostly because in an album full of more unique selections this particular song feels a bit out of place.

"In The Bleak Midwinter" follows in the vein of "Gaudete" and "Sleep Quietly." This is a darkly beautiful carol. This song seems to be becoming a staple on holiday albums since The Moody Blues recorded it for their 2003 release December.

"Blood On The Snow" is another moody sounding song. Andy's range dips low for these, really low!

"There'll Be No Tomorrow" is another bouncy dance number. This is a great song to play to ring in the New Year.

The album closes with three holiday standards "Midnight Clear," the overdone, "White Christmas" and "Silver Bells."

Of the three, "Silver Bells" is the one that stands out. Andy delivers a theatrical vocal and Vince's melody is full of whimsy. It is the perfect song to close out an album that is a must have for your holiday.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Apple Raisin Bread Pudding

This is such a yummy bread pudding.


1 can of apple pie filling
6 slices of bread or enough to cover the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish
1 cup of raisins regular or golden
5 eggs slightly beaten
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups of milk
1 stick of butter


Cut the bread up (I always remove the crusts) and line the bottom of the pan with the bread.

Top with raisins and then pie filling

In a microwavable bowl add the butter, sugar and milk. Microwave for a minute or more until the butter is melted.

Let cool

~ Tip if you take the butter/milk mixture out when the butter isn't completely melted and whisk it cools faster

Add the eggs to the milk mixture

Pour over the bread

Bake @ 350 for 45 minutes

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Butterscotch Bread

This recipe is one that my family has made for years. My mother made it and so did my grandmother.

It is a nice dense quick bread..good as a sweet for breakfast or as a lighter dessert.


2 eggs
2 T melted shortening/butter
2 c brown sugar
4 c flower
1 1/4 tsp soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 c buttermilk or sour milk
1 cup chopped walnuts


Beat eggs, add sugar and shortening. Mix flower,soda, powder and salt together. Add to egg mixture alternately with milk. Add nuts.

Pour into 2 greased/floured loaf pans. Place on 4th shelf from the bottom.  Both on one shelf

350 degrees for one hour...

From the recipe file of Emma Rehula

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Recipe: Crescent Turkey Pot Pie

Left over turkey anyone?

Here's an easy and pretty cheap way to use up some of those holiday leftovers


1 1/2 cups of chopped turkey
3 cups of gravy...if you don't have any leftover, I recommend the Stonehouse mixes.
1 bag mixed veggies
1 package of crescent rolls


Warm the gravy or prepare according to package directions.
Add turkey and mixed veggies and heat until warmed.
Spoon into an 8 x 8 pan and cover with the crescent can make it pretty if you want or just cover the top of the pan. Whatever works for you.
Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

The result is super yummy!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Cover Reveal: The Book Stops Here

The Book Stops Here: A Bibliophile Mystery will be out in hardcover in June 2014 and this time around, Brooklyn Wainwright is invited to be the book expert on an antiques appraisal TV show called This Old Attic. I worked in TV for many years and now I finally get to put all my backstage, death-around-every-corner daydreams into a book! Brooklyn appraises an autographed first edition of The Secret Garden, which happens to be one of my favorite childhood books, but then the book's owner is murdered....

The Book Stops Here is officially available for pre-order and on sale at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Check it out!