Monday, November 30, 2009

Win a Montana Gift Basket!

Fall in Love with Lonesome Prairie!

From authors Tricia Goyer and Ocieanna Fleiss :

The Winner of our ‘Fall in Love with Lonesome Prairie’ giveaway will receive a fantastic Montana Gift Basket, including:

Winter fleece throw
Huckleberry chocolate bar
Paula Dean candle
Burt’s Bees gift set
Wild Huckleberry taffy
Montana stationery notebook
Montana greeting card set
Montana ball cap
Montana apron
Montana refrigerator magnet
Charlie Russell 2010 Montana Calendar

To ENTER - click HERE

Top Ten Tips for Dynamite Digital Photography

Top Ten Tips for Dynamite Digital Photography By Tom Grimm and Michele Grimm, Authors of The Basic Book of Digital Photography: How to Shoot, Enhance, and Share Your Digital Pictures.

Here are 10 easy ways to greatly improve your digital photographs and avoid the pitfalls that are common with today's automatic cameras. Professional photographers Michele and Tom Grimm offer these and many more tips in their brand-new handbook, The Basic Book of Digital Photography.

1. Pay Attention to Composition.Too often a picture lacks impact because your subjects seem too far away. Move closer or zoom in to concentrate attention on your main subject and to avoid unwanted elements that are distracting. Make certain you see nothing in the viewfinder or on the LCD screen that you don't want in the final picture. Be especially alert for cluttered backgrounds. Finally, just before you shoot, check that the horizon appears level in your camera's viewfinder or on the LCD screen.

2. Vary the Format of Your Pictures.Cameras make pictures that are rectangular, not square, so you should remember to turn your camera vertically for appropriate subjects, such as portraits of people. In other words, don't be so lazy that you always hold the camera horizontally. Appropriately, horizontal images are in the format called landscape, while the format for vertical shots is known as portrait.

3. Shoot, Shoot, Shoot.If you used to shoot with a film camera, break the old habit of just making one or two exposures. The memory cards that are substitutes for film in digital cameras will hold hundreds of pictures and you can easily erase the images you don't like. So shoot away until you get the perfect picture. A big bonus is that you won't have to spend extra time at your computer fixing up mediocre shots with image-editing software.

4. Press the Shutter Release Button . . . Don't Jab It.More pictures are ruined because of camera shake than for any other reason. The main offense is jabbing or snapping your finger down on the shutter release (which jars the camera). It's easy to avoid blurred pictures: Just remember to arch your shooting finger and slowly press or squeeze the shutter button. Also, be sure to hold your camera with two hands to help keep it steady.

5. Shoot with Flash Outdoors.Pictures taken outdoors, especially of people and pets, are frequently better when you use your camera's built-in flash. That's because direct sunlight often causes annoying shadows on faces, particularly around the eyes. Flash "fills in" those shadows to provide uniform illumination and a more pleasing portrait. Also, to keep your subjects from squinting in bright sunlight, ask them to turn their backs to the sun. That puts their faces in shadow, which you'll then illuminate with the flash.

6. Memorize the Shooting Range of Your Flash.Although they are convenient, built-in flash units are not very powerful and underexposed flash pictures in dark places are often the result. To avoid underexposures (or overexposures) with your flash, memorize its operating range. How distant (or close) can your subject be for a proper exposure? The flash range of a point-and-shoot camera may only be 3 to 12 feet. Caution: the flash range will change as you adjust your camera's zoom lens; check the instruction manual.

7. Set a Higher ISO for Sharper, Non-blurred Images, and Greater Flash Range.Keep in mind that adjusting your camera's ISO to a higher number, such as ISO 800 instead of ISO 100, automatically sets smaller lens openings for more sharply focused images, as well as faster shutter speeds for stop-action, non-blurry pictures. It also extends the maximum distance range of a built-in or dedicated flash unit. Unfortunately, a very high ISO, such as ISO 1600 or 3200 (if available) may cause unwanted effects in digital images called artifacts. Take some test pictures at different ISO settings to compare the results.

8. Read and Reread Your Camera Manual (and our Digital Photo Book).Most new camera owners look at the instructions only once or twice, if at all. But modern digital cameras, whether point-and-shoot or SLR (single lens reflex) models, are not as simple as their advertisements suggest. Study the instruction booklet until you're familiar with all of the camera's buttons, symbols, and picture possibilities. If you lose the instructions or forget to bring them on a trip, log onto your camera manufacturer's Web site and download a copy of the manual.

9. Compose Pictures with Your Viewfinder, Not the LCD.Unless you're taking close-ups, it is easier, faster, and steadier to compose pictures by using your camera's viewfinder (if available) instead of the LCD screen. There is more support with the camera pressed to your face as you look through the viewfinder instead of trying to hold it steady at arm's length while composing subjects on the LCD screen. Also, you won't be bothered by bright light that makes it difficult to see images on the LCD.

10. Don't Let the Date and Time Deface Your Pictures.Make sure your camera is not set to automatically print the time and date of your shots on the front of your pictures; it will ruin their appearance. Besides, you should be aware that the time and date are embedded in every photo image file as hidden metadata that can be viewed at anytime with image-editing software on your computer.

Tom Grimm and Michele Grimm, authors of The Basic Book of Digital Photography: How to Shoot, Enhance, and Share Your Digital Pictures Author BiosTom Grimm and Michele Grimm, authors of The Basic Book of Digital Photography: How to Shoot, Enhance, and Share Your Digital Pictures, are a husband-and-wife photojournalism team who have spent nearly four decades traveling the globe; the couple has visited every continent and more than 130 countries in search of the perfect photographic image. Their photographs and articles have been published worldwide in magazines and newspapers and on the Internet. The Grimms are authors and illustrators of thirteen adult and children's books.For more information, please visit and you can purchase the book at Amazon .

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Charm Design Bags and Totes $50 gift card GUEST GIVEAWAY!!!!

Charm Design Bags and Totes $50 gift card GUEST GIVEAWAY!!!!

Sunday Stealing

Sunday Stealing : The Tell Me About Yourself Meme

1. When is your birthday? August 12

2. Where were you born? Winston Salem, NC

3. Where do you live now? Holly Grove, AR

4. What is your heritage? Cherokee Indian, Irish

5. Tell us about a weakness. Terrified of creepie crawlies, especially spiders, and it aggravates me that I can't just kill them like everyone else. Just totally freaks me out to see one.

6. What's a goal that you'd like to achieve? Lose 100 pounds!

7. What is the most overused internet phrase? lol

8. What was your first thought this morning? woke up thinking of a camping trip I went on in 2003...I know, wierd

9. When do you usually go to bed? around 11 pm

10. Do you smoke? If not, did you ever? Never, don't know how and proud of it

11. Do you like your current relationship status? Love it

12. Do you (or did you) get along with your parents? I got along so-so with my Mom, and only saw my dad a few times in my life, so didn't know him. I ALWAYS disappointed my mom.

13. How often do you drink alcohol? I used to drink an occasional wine cooler or daqueri, but since my transplant, I don't drink at all.

14. Have you ever tried drugs (that weren't prescribed)? Nope, never.I'm older than most of you probably. Just never had the desire to.

15. Have you ever gone skinny dipping? If yes, do tell. Yes, when I was about 17 in a closed local pool where my boyfriend was the lifeguard..and yes...we did.

16. If given the choice, how would you like to die? in my sleep with no pain

17. What did you want to be when you grew up? a teacher

18. Have you ever been dumped? once...his loss

19. What's on your pizza? extra cheese, onions, green peppers, mushrooms, and pepperoni

20. Have you ever shoplifted? when I was about 11...I stole a wallet from a local store..My mom took me there and made me give it back (SO embarrassing)...and I was never allowed to go in that store again..and was grounded to my room for what seemed like all eternity. But it worked ...I never did it again.

You can play along here.

Unconscious Mutterings #357

  1. MacGyver :: Richard Dean Anderson

  2. Garter :: blue
  3. Wedge :: wedgewood china

  4. Inches :: pounds

  5. Code :: secret

  6. Water :: ice

  7. Running :: walking

  8. Curly :: straight

  9. Turkey :: Thanksgiving

  10. Stupor :: momentarily stupid

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Saturday 9

1. When was the last time you jetted away for the holidays? When my Mom was alive, I flew to Los Angeles several holidays a year, but the last time for a holiday was in May of this year for my son's wedding.

2. What is your fondest birthday memory? When my boys were about 11 and 12, they did my birthday "on their own" for the first time. They baked me a cake, bought me a pair of cheapie birthstone earrings (which I wore with pride), and gave me cards. It was special and still holds a place in my heart.

3. What names do you go by? Sandy, Saundra

4. What do you look forward to most in the next six weeks? spending Christmas in AL at my son's house

5. Where is your least favorite place to be, and why? here, because I HATE Arkansas

6. Have you ever had a scary stalker type? never been that lucky, lol

7. What is your favorite holiday tradition? decorating the tree together, hanging the stockings, putting up outside decorations, cooking and baking on Christmas Eve, opening just 1 present on Christmas Eve (which is always some form of pjs), and mainly be with family.

8. What are two activities you do after eating Thanksgiving Dinner? clean the kitchen and relax

9. What did your family do for Thanksgiving when you were a kid? Do you still do it? If not explain why. My family had a huge dinner every year and lots of family members from everywhere came. After my grandma died, that stopped. We no longer have a family Thanksgiving because everyone lives so far away from each other. But we do get together at Christmas.

Play Saturday 9 HERE.

Friday, November 27, 2009


The winner of "Eat Your Way to Happiness" is Charity.

The winner of "Decoding the Lost Symbol" is Laura H.

Winners have been emailed and were chosen by If no reply in 48 hrs, I will choose another winner.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Touching Wonder

You are invited to visit to listen to this new Christmas audio special!

uReadBooks presents:
Touching Wonder -
A Christmas Radio Special

Does it seem like you have heard the Christmas story a few too many times for it to still hold the wonder that it once had? With his instant classic, Touching Wonder, author John Blase breathes new life into the story of the Nativity. Just in time for the holiday season, presents a half hour Christmas special featuring excerpts from this new book.

About the book:
Little children understand how amazing the Nativity story is. But, sometimes, as we become men and women, we put away the childlike with the childish. The result? We lose something vital—the wonder of it all. When author John Blase went looking for the lost wonder of Christmas, he went back to the place he’d last seen it—the stories from Luke 1-2. What he found fills the pages of his new book, Touching Wonder: Recapturing the Awe of Christmas (David C Cook, September 2009), with flesh and bone and dust and night and a baby’s cry; the intimate union of human and divine—the Incarnation.

By boldly imagining the first two chapters of the gospel of Luke, writer, editor, and former pastor John Blase has created an instant classic for Christmastime. In a tale that reads like a novel parallel parked by the record of Scripture, Blase beckons those who could use a little wonder in their lives to step onto the stage of history and witness the long awaited coming of the Messiah. With Eugene Peterson’s The Message Bible translation as his backdrop, Blase adds his own voice and commentary to the historic events, exploring the renowned drama from an array of viewpoints.

In Touching Wonder, readers will meet a cast of unruly unlikelies—a frightened teenaged girl, a worried carpenter, a collection of senior citizens, a disillusioned young shepherd, even an angel or two—moving toward the realization that the little one just born is the One. This imaginative retelling of the grand miracle will leave readers wide-eyed, slack-jawed, and heart-full. The Lord is come!

In this lovely and distinctive book to be read…and re-read…and pondered in the heart, young and old will recapture the wonder of the Christmas story by seeing through the eyes of those who lived it. The book’s graceful design and Amanda Jolman’s beautiful line drawings combine to make this a thoughtful Christmas gift as well as a wonder that families will treasure for years to come.

Touching Wonder: Recapturing the Awe of Christmas
by John Blase

David C Cook/September 2009

To listen to or download the program, visit

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday Stealing

1. Name someone with the same birthday as you. George Hamilton

2. Where was your first kiss? In the back of a movie theater when I was about 12 or 13, and it must have been his 1st time also, because he almost sucked my bottom lip off, lol.

3. Have you ever hit someone of the opposite sex? If yes, why? yes, because he hit me first...and last. (long story and many yrs ago)

4. Have you ever sung in front of a large number of people? When? yes, in church as a teen

5. What's the first thing you notice about your preferred sex? his butt, his abs and his eyes

6. What really turns you off? pain

7. What is your biggest mistake? marrying the abuser in question #3

8. Have you ever hurt yourself on purpose? no, not physically anyway

9. Say something totally random about yourself. I cannot blow bubbles with bubble gum.

10. Has anyone ever said you looked like a celebrity? nope

11. Do you still watch kiddie movies or TV shows? not unless the grand kids are here

12. Are you comfortable with your height? yes

13. What is the most romantic thing someone of the preferred sex has done for you? made me a candlelit dinner on what had been a terrible day..he bought a "waves" cd and we danced on the patio with our eyes shut pretending to be back at the beach. Most romantic night of my life.

14. When do you know it's love? You just feel like a teenager again and you tingle when he looks at you, and just know.

15. What's something that really annoys you? liars and rude people

Play HERE.

Unconscious Mutterings #355

  1. Marathon :: Runners

  2. Debt :: collectors

  3. Turn :: around

  4. Image :: picture

  5. Sofa :: loveseat

  6. Envelope :: brown

  7. Cart :: horse

  8. Process :: procedure

  9. Question :: mark

  10. Rumor :: Willis

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Saturday 9

Talking in Your Sleep

1. Has anyone in your life talked in their sleep? Yes, my hubby does when he is very tired

2. What do you like about fall? the changing colors of the trees, the cooler temps, and football

3. Do you have an addictive personality? sadly, yes I do. But not for drugs and alcolhol, but for food, and other things.

4. Who was the last person to do something extra special for you? My hubby does something special for me almost every day, seriously.

5. Would you ever take someone back if they cheated on you? NO

6. Are you happy with where you are in life? no, not at all, but can't do a lot about it right now

7. Do you believe that you can change someone? no way, I can only change myself

8. Have you ever wished you could've had someone but you couldn't? back in my younger days, but not for a long long time

9. Would you ever fight someone over your significant other? no, if he wants her more than me...he should go. His loss!

Join The Saturday 9 HERE.

Saturday Photo Hunt and a recipe


I love this photo. I was sitting in the car downtown one day and this pigeon came walking by like he was showing off to the duck in the picture in the window.

I found a recipe for Potato Corn Chowder over at Temma's blog Honey Never Spoils . It was fantastic! My hubby and I both ate two bowls for lunch. Please go over to her blog and try this! You will be glad you did.

Weekly Wins ending 11/21

All wins were books this week! The 2 on the left are wins, and the other 4 are for review.

Friday, November 20, 2009


The most beautiful Arkansas sunset I've ever seen.
Join Skywatch Friday HERE.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thursday Thunks

1. If you won a brand new house in a Dream House Giveaway would you move into it, sell it to pay the taxes and make a profit, rent it out or give it to a family member/friend who might need it? Move into it- Immediately!!!

2. Are you good at billards? I used to be in my younger days, haven't played in years.

3. Does anyone on the planet really want to see Levi Johnston naked in Playgirl (other than when Bristol Palin did)? Not Me!

4. Is your phone ringing right now? nope, hardly ever rings :(

5. Do you think man has eaten or tried to eat every type of animal on the face of the earth at one point or another? If not, what don't you think man has tried? Man has probably tried everything

6. The new movie Avatar has been showing sneak peeks and been hyped to the max. Will you see it? Not sure, I'll probably wait for the DVD and rent it.

7. If a slightly bigger fish eats a small fish, then a bigger fish immediately eats that one, then an even bigger fish immediately eats that fish and then finally a huge fish eats the one that just ate that fish and it gets caught by you... how many meals will you have from that one fish? "1"

8. If you had an appointment with the doctor and all the plants in the office were dead, would you still see the doctor? Yes, and I would not having a problem asking him if he needs someone to come in twice a week to take care of them. I could use the extra money!

9. Have you ever seen the number 666 in a dream? Nope but in many other scenarios.

10. "At 20 years of age the will reigns, at 30 the wit, at 40 the judgment."~ Benjamin Franklin
So what happens at 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100?
Well, I can tell you for sure that at 50 worry reigns. Worry that 60, 70,and 80 may not come. And worry that I won't have enough money to live on if they do.

11. Would you want your phone number to be (area code) 123-4567? No, every jokester in the area code would call. But, hey, my phone would actually ring then, so maybe....

Play HERE.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

My daughter-in-law Jenny's Baby Shower
The Loot
The Cake


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Decoding The Lost Symbol Giveaway

Introduction by Simon Cox,Author of Decoding The Lost Symbol: The Unauthorized Expert Guide to the Facts Behind the FictionIt was April 2009, and I was just arriving at the London Book Fair at the Earls Court Exhibition Halls. I was intending on catching up with friends, my UK publisher, and having a general look at what was new in the publishing world. However, I knew that something remarkable had happened the minute I had arrived. An air of excitement and expectation filled the packed halls, and smiles were emanating from all around. Grown men were close to tears.

I instantly knew what had happened: the new Dan Brown book had been announced.

This was to be the start of nearly five months of manic preparation and debate. Clues and hints would be given out, opinions bandied about, and crazed supposition would fill thousands of web pages. However, let's wind back the clock to the publication of Brown's previous Robert Langdon thriller, The Da Vinci Code, in 2003.

Back then, Dan Brown was a semisuccessful author of several thrillers, one of which was the first Robert Langdon novel, Angels & Demons, published in 2000. Sales had been average to poor, and Brown's publisher decided to take a gamble with The Da Vinci Code, sending out ten thousand free copies to bookstores and their book buyers, reviewers, and trade professionals. The plan worked, and soon sales really began to take off.

At the time, I was the editor in chief of a U.S.-based newsstand magazine called Phenomena. The Da Vinci Code was starting to cause quite a stir within the alternative-history genre that I inhabited; in fact, several authors that I had worked for as a researcher had their work credited as source material for Brown's book. (Phenomena even ran an article "casting" the movie version of The Da Vinci Code, should it ever come to pass. For the record, not one of the actors we thought would be so terrific in the roles of Dr. Robert Langdon, Sir Leigh Teabing, and the book's other characters was cast for Ron Howard's 2006 film starring Tom Hanks.) Eventually a small London publisher approached me about writing a short guide to The Da Vinci Code. The book, Cracking the Da Vinci Code, went on to become an international best seller in its own right. I subsequently wrote Illuminating Angels & Demons, a companion to Brown's other Langdon-based novel.

Intriguingly, the dust jacket of the U.S. hardcover edition of The Da Vinci Code seemed to contain clues hinting at the next novel in the series. This fascinated me, and I found out all I could about these clues and the secrets that they potentially held.

Time passed, and rumors began circulating that a title had been chosen. The new book was to be called The Solomon Key -- an apparent reference to a medieval book on magic with the same title. Impatiently, I began researching all that I could about this centuries-old text, which supposedly was written in Italy during the Renaissance but claimed a lineage that went all the way back to King Solomon himself. Perfect material for a Dan Brown thriller, I thought. Brown's publishing team registered a new website,, and everything seemed poised for the new book to arrive soon.

More time passed . . . and more time passed . . . and still no definitive word about the new book, though plenty of fresh rumors abounded: Brown had scrapped the book; there would be no follow-up to The Da Vinci Code. Brown, exhausted from having fended off a high-profile copyright-infringement lawsuit in London, had decided to take an extended break from writing. It was even claimed that the 2004 movie National Treasure, starring Nicolas Cage as a treasure hunter seeking a mysterious war chest hidden by the Founding Fathers, had stolen so much of the forthcoming book's thunder that it required a complete rewrite. The unsubstantiated allegations were completely fanciful, of course, but they replicated over and over like a virus on the ever-conspiratorial internet sites that monitored the story, sending the rumor mill into overdrive.

Then came the 2009 London Book Fair. Only a couple of months before, I had predicted to my UK publisher that the announcement would indeed be made at the London event. More in hope than expectation, it has to be said, but accurate nonetheless.

A press release was handed out by Brown's publishers, and suddenly a new title presented itself. The Lost Symbol, to be published on September 15, 2009. What could such an enigmatic title mean? What was lost? Which symbol? The race was on, the game was afoot, and I rushed headlong into research-and-reading mode. What you hold in your hands before you is the outcome of that labor.

Before long, a new website appeared, at, though nothing but a holding page was evident for quite a while. Then, out of the blue, the site added links to a Dan Brown Facebook page and Twitter feed. Excitement grew to fever pitch, as thousands of people became Facebook and Twitter followers of Dan Brown overnight.

Steadily, these new media outlets began to reveal tantalizing clues and tidbits of story line. With each revelation, I furiously took notes and researched everything I could find. It was as if a whole new world were opening up. It was a cornucopia of material, and I started ordering more new books for my library to cover some of the subjects mentioned.

Some of the clues actually gave coordinates to several locations, such as the so-called Bimini Road. This unusual underwater structure off the island of Bimini in the Bahamas is claimed to be a man-made edifice and a remnant of the lost island of Atlantis. I had spent two summers on Bimini a number of years back as part of my research for a book about Atlantis. "Great," I thought, "now I have a head start on some of the material." Coordinates were also given for the Great Pyramid of Giza, the last standing wonder of the ancient world and another place with which I was intimately familiar. Then there were coordinates to Newgrange in Ireland, a monumental passage tomb built around five thousand years ago. The stone structure is famous for its alignment to dawn on the winter solstice, when a narrow beam of light briefly illuminates the floor of the chamber. I had just visited Newgrange with the author and Freemason Chris McClintock.

Possible adversaries and secret societies were hinted at. Ciphers, codes, and cryptograms were revealed. Historical figures were mentioned. It was all adding up to a furious game of who could be first to reveal the answers to the clues. Websites sprang up detailing the background and history of some of the people, places, and groups being mentioned. It was an internet feeding frenzy.

Then I remembered something: Bishop Manuel Aringarosa, a character from The Da Vinci Code, whose name had a hidden meaning. Aringa is the Italian word for "herring"; rosa means "red." Dan Brown liked to throw multiple red herrings into the mix. I began to look at the Twitter and Facebook clues in a new light. What if many of these were indeed red herrings? What if I were immersing myself in subjects that weren't included in the published book? That's when I stopped even looking at the Facebook and Twitter pages. After all, everything would be revealed on the day of publication, September 15.

Even this date, we were told, was part of the puzzle; chosen specifically for the book's release. I began to check almanacs, history books, websites, conspiracy theorist blogs, but found nothing. Then it hit me: 09.15.09; 9 plus 15 plus 9 equals 33. So it was true. The Freemasons, and specifically Scottish Rite Freemasons, would be a central theme of the book -- something that had been hinted at on the dust jacket of The Da Vinci Code years ago.

Then, before I knew it, publication day arrived. I began reading The Lost Symbol furiously. When I finished some twelve hours later, I realized that my suspicions had proved correct: many of the clues leaked over the previous months on Dan Brown's Twitter and Facebook pages were indeed aringarosa -- red herrings. There was no Morgan affair; no Aaron Burr; no William Wirt (and the strange story of his skull); no Knights of the Golden Circle; no substantial mentions of Albert Pike; no Benedict Arnold; no Confederate gold; no Babington plot; no Alexander Hamilton and the origins of the New York Stock Exchange; no Sons of Liberty; no Lost Colony of Roanoke; no Robert Hanssen, the U.S.-born Russian spy; no Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin.
Cleverly, there was no Key of Solomon, either. Instead we have a family with the surname of Solomon, who hold the keys to the eventual outcome. The Great Pyramid figures in the story, though not prominently and not in the context that many had thought.

Dan Brown and his publishers had managed to pull off something of a coup, keeping the plotline of The Lost Symbol pretty much under wraps until the day of publication (although a couple of U.S. newspapers did print reviews the day before, in defiance of the publisher's embargo). It was an amazing feat, especially considering that the book's print run exceeded five million copies, and it guaranteed Brown a huge amount of media and public attention.

So: what did we end up with? Is The Lost Symbol a worthy successor to Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code?

The Lost Symbol is, in the end, a pretty good thriller that keeps Robert Langdon on his toes and involves some big themes and historical enigmas. However, it's the deeper, more hidden elements of the book that I believe will have the most impact over time. Between the lines of the novel, Dan Brown has attempted to write something akin to a hidden Hermetic text. It's a bold and ambitious undertaking, and one that I applaud him for. Indeed, the last ten chapters of the book and the epilogue are more or less an extended treatise on Deism, Hermetic thought, and religious tolerance.

The Freemasons are the secret society of choice this time around. I'm sure that there will be those who see Freemasonry as a covert, sinister movement intent on power and blasphemy. I see it rather differently. I am not a Freemason, nor will I ever be one. But I do know many Freemasons. Indeed, Ian Robertson, one of the chief researchers for this book, is a Freemason, as is my friend Chris McClintock, author of the soon-to-be-published Sun of God book series on the origins of the Freemasonry and its symbolism. Neither of them is in any way sinister, nor are the countless other Freemasons that I know and respect. I like the stance that Dan Brown has taken with Freemasonry within The Lost Symbol. Many commentators thought that the Masons would, in effect, be portrayed as the "bad guys," but this is not the case. In fact, Brown makes a convincing argument for Freemasonry being a tolerant and enlightened movement with some interesting and forward-thinking ideas.

While it should be said that Freemasonry is a secretive society, it is not a secret society.
Membership is easy to research and find out about, and most members are not shy about letting you know that they are within the craft, as it is called. Since the heyday of Freemasonry in the eighteenth century, it has attracted men of a certain social standing and, to an extent, still does. But the group has become more welcoming as of late, and I hope that this trend continues.
One of the things I wanted to get across within some of the entries of this book is that maybe it's not Freemasonry we should be wary of -- instead maybe we should fear the real secret groups and societies of which we know very little or nothing. Then again, maybe we are simply chasing shadows, wisps of rumor and supposition that have tormented us for millennia; a fear of secret and hidden things that, in the end, may not be that secret or hidden after all. Another thing worth noting is that although many of the people mentioned in this book were not Freemasons (Pierre L'Enfant springs to mind), or at least we have no evidence that they were, they would have been intimately familiar with the society and its workings. Many of their contemporaries and peers would have been members, and the craft would have been all around. It seems likely, for instance, that Thomas Jefferson, though we have no direct evidence of his membership in a Masonic lodge, did have sympathies with the Masonic ideals of brotherhood, enlightenment, and religious tolerance.

Once again, like my previous guides to Dan Brown's books, this book is laid out in an easy-to-read A-to-Z format. There are some sixty entries in all; fewer than in previous guides. This was deliberate, as I wanted to give you a much more in-depth took at some of the themes, places, people, and groups featured in the novel.

The BBC in the United Kingdom once called me "a historian of the obscure," a title that I like very much indeed. I have aimed to bring you some of that history of obscure and hidden subjects within the pages of this book. If you feel the urge to look deeper and delve further into some of the interesting subjects highlighted here, take a look at the bibliography and start building your own library of esoteric and arcane subjects. Just make sure that you remember to sleep and eat while familiarizing yourself with the ancient mystery traditions -- it's an addictive pursuit but also a very rewarding one, and one that I hope many of you will undertake.
If you want to talk about, debate, or extol any of the subjects in this book or the novel itself, head over to my website at, where you will find a forum for debate and articles and blogs. If you want to contact me directly about any of the issues raised, I have my own Facebook page under my name and can be found on Twitter too (@FindSimonCox).

Writing this book was a lot of fun, and it has given me a newfound respect and admiration for the men who founded a new and fledgling nation in America, at the end of the eighteenth century. As a British writer and historian, it's a period of history that I was not that familiar with and I have really enjoyed the research and subsequent writing about this tumultuous time. The Founding Fathers really were incredibly enlightened and forward-thinking men, who guided the formation of a republic with steady hands and an unwavering resolve. I will forever look at them, and this period of time, in a brand-new light from now on.

I hope you enjoy Decoding The Lost Symbol, and find its contents enlightening and interesting. I pass it on to you with the hope that you will find it as fun to read as it was to write.

Simon Cox Bedford, United Kingdom September 2009 The above is an excerpt from the book Decoding The Lost Symbol: The Unauthorized Expert Guide to the Facts Behind the Fiction by Simon Cox. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Copyright © 2009 Simon Cox, author of Decoding The Lost Symbol: The Unauthorized Expert Guide to the Facts Behind the Fiction

Author BioSimon Cox, author of Decoding The Lost Symbol: The Unauthorized Expert Guide to the Facts Behind the Fiction, was the founding editor in chief of the successful newsstand magazine Phenomena. Having studied Egyptology at University College London, he went on to work as a research assistant for some of the biggest names in the alternative history game, including Graham Hancock, Robert Bauvel, and David Rohl. He splits his time between Britain and the United States.
You can visit his website at

You can buy 'Decoding The Lost Symbol'
here .

I am also giving away one copy of Decoding The Lost Symbol. You MUST be a follower of my blog. Leave your email so that I can get in touch with you if you win.

Extra entries -
Follow me on twitter and tweet about this giveaway and leave a link.

2. Blog about this giveaway and leave a link.

Giveaway ends Nov. 27, 2009 at 10 A.M. CST. Giveaway is open for US mailing addresses only.
Winner will have 48 hours to respond to notification with shipping info - if no response, another winner will be chosen .

* I was sent this book to give an honest review and was not paid for my review *

The Queen's Meme #14 Do You Believe in Magic?

Do You Believe in Magic?

1. Tell us about your superstitions. Do you have any? Do you "x out" black cats on the windshield of your car, avoid cracks in the sidewalk or practice other rituals that make you feel safer?
I do not walk under ladders, Yes - I cross out black cats in the road, and that is about it. My grandfather raised me and was VERY superstitious. We were not allowed to play games with dice like monopoly, because dice brought bad money situations to the home, and we could not have an aquarium because live fish in the house brought bad luck.

2. Has anything paranormal ever happened to you that you can write about? Yes. My mom used to always brush my hair and play with my hair even when I was grown. She always said when she died she would try to come back and let me know she was ok by being a beautiful yellow butterfly. For months after she died, I could feel the air get cold in the room and I would feel something touch my hair. It didn't scare me, because I knew it was her. When I went to the cemetery, which wasn't often because I lived a state away, a yellow butterfly would always fly around me. It made me a true believer in the afterlife.

3. Have you ever had a near-death experience? I haven't had the kind you see on tv, but I was told last Nov that I only had two or three weeks to live as I was in end stage liver failure and they could not do anything else for me. I received a new liver on Nov 10. So that was my near death experience. It changed the way I think about 'everything'.

4. Pheromones...aka "love fireworks" (I think I remember those)...are a force to be reckoned with. Do you believe that two people can have an uncontrollable chemical reaction to each other? How do you know this to be true? Yes, I do because I had that with my hubby (#2). I did not have that with #1.

5. Do you believe that modern day witches can put spells on people?
If so, who would you like to hoodoo and why?
I'm not sure but if it is so, and you are a witch..I have a very abusive ex who needs to be turned into a toad or a pig or something.

6. ESP! What do those letters stand for in your life? Extra Special People

7. Do you ever hear strange noises in your house? nope

8. Tell us about a time you "knew" something was going to happened before it did. Are you one of those intuitive types or do you know someone who is ? Do tell. See #9.

9. I'm a tad gifted in the dream department. Really. Sometimes my dreams are prophetic and come true. It can be a blessing and a curse. Has this ever happened to you? If not, would you like to have this gift? (Be careful what you wish for. It can be freaky at times.) My #8 and #9 are the same answer. I also am a tad gifted in the dream dept. My first mother in law died two weeks after I had a crazy funny dream about her death. I dreamed she was dead but we couldn't bury her because she would not quit talking. Seriously! Then the same mother in law came to me in a dream and all she would say is "Call David". David is my oldest son. So I called and he had been attacked and his home broken into a few minutes before I called.

I am so glad this was the theme for today.. I am a believer and most people just think I am crazy!

Come join us HERE.

Monday, November 16, 2009

'Eat Your Way to Happiness' Review and Giveaway

Eat Your Way to Happiness by Elizabeth Somer.

Ask yourself these questions.

Do you consider yourself a happy person?
Do you have enough energy?
Are you satisfied with your weight?

All of these things are related, and your energy, mental clarity, mood and waistline are directly connected to what you eat.

The author presents 10 diet secrets designed to help improve one's mood, curb cravings, and keep the pounds off for good. She includes tips like "10 days of mood Boosting- waist shrinking Lunch Ideas" and "The Truth About Super Foods". I learned so much reading this book, and I thought I knew a lot about nutrition. I was wrong.

I am in my mid fifties and have always had a weight problem. I have been following this book for a few weeks now, and have lost 9 pounds so far and feel much more energy. This is a great book with great tips for shedding and keeping off the pounds and giving you more energy.

You can buy 'Eat Your Way to Happiness'

I am also giving away one copy of Eat Your Way to Happiness. You MUST be a follower of my blog. Leave your email so that I can get in touch with you if you win.

Extra entries -

1. Follow me on twitter and tweet about this giveaway and leave a link.

2. Blog about this giveaway and leave a link.

3. Leave a healthy recipe that makes you feel happy when you eat it.

Giveaway ends Nov. 25, 2009 at 10 A.M. CST. Giveaway is open for US mailing addresses only.
Winner will have 48 hours to respond to notification with shipping info - if no response, another winner will be chosen .

* I was sent this book to give an honest review and was not paid for my review *

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday Stealing

Part One - Describe:

Your hair? Sits on my shoulders, parted on the left side, and teh box says it is Light Golden Brown

Your mother? My mom was a short sweet lady that passed away 8 years ago and I miss her very much.

Your father? Only saw my dad a few times in my life..he was a 'badboy' type and drank himself to death.

Your favorite food? Mexican

Your dream last night? I was at a baby shower

Your favorite drink? sweet tea

Your dream/goal? to lose 100 pounds

The room are you in? my extra bedroom which serves a s a computer/junk/guest room.

Your hobby? reading, photography, scrapbooking, and writing

Your fear? bugs, creepy crawlies

Your TV? 32" Sony

Your Pets? a cat - Snickers

Friends? real friends = a rare few ; aquaintences = many

Your life? usually sucks, although I fight that every day

Your mood? generally happy

If you're missing someone? YES, my friends in Phoenix, my brother in CA, my grandbabies, and most of all my sons.

Your best friend? Robert, my husband

Part Two - The Where's?

Where do you want to be in 6 years? alive, lol. After having a liver transplant last year, I hope that happens.

Where were you last night? at home, where were you?

Where did you grow up? Winston Salem, NC

One place that I go to over and over? Walmart

Your favorite place to eat out? the casino buffet

Wish list items? new camera, tv, laptop, and sewing machine

Last time you laughed? this afternoon

Last time you cried? this afternoon

Part Three - The What's?

Something that you aren't? young

Last thing you did? cooked dinner

What are you wearing? my nightgown

Something you're not wearing? a bra

Your favorite store? Michaels or JoAnns

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Saturday Photo Hunt - Music

These are The Wilsons. You can check them out on MySpace as The Wilsons and hear their sweet sound. They are a Christian/Country group who sing in churches and at Venues all over the south. I LOVE their sound.
From left to right is Jenny, Rachel, and Jill.
Jenny is also my daughter-in-law.

HUGE Scrapbooking Giveaway!!!!!

Look at all this great stuff!! I hope I win, but if I don't, I hope you do!
Debbie over at Passion for Crafts is having this awesome giveaway.
Hurry though, Closes Monday Nov 16 at Midnight.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ornament Exchange

Pampering Becki is having an ornament exchange to help not only celebrate the holidays but to also help bring us mom bloggers closer together. Sounds like lots of fun. If you would like to join in the fun head over to the blog Pampering Becki and sign up. I did. The deadline to sign up is November 12, 2009.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Wordless Wednesday Nov 11

Arkansas Sunset


On Friday, November 27, click on Color Me Jazzmyne’s Amazon page and buy a copy for yourself (and one for a friend). In order to be entered into the drawing to win a very special tote bag from the author, you must email a copy of your Amazon receipt to the folks at Author Exposure Book Blog (bookpromo at authorexposure dot com) within 24 hours of your purchase. Everyone who purchases a copy of Color Me Jazzmyne on November 27th from AND emails a receipt to will have a chance to win a nifty tote bag!!

Color Me Jazzmyne by Marian L. Thomas is a fictional story of a jazz singer named Naya Mona, who was raped by her father. In the tale, Naya recounts her life to her son whom she is meeting for the first time. How do you tell your son that your father is his?

Women will relate to the drama, romance, and struggles Naya Mona goes through as she takes on the stage name—Jazzmyne. Written She has a voice that commands your attention and takes you on a journey through the life of Naya Mona that is filled with the melodious tones that make Color Me Jazzmyne a true reading pleasure.

To read the first three chapters of Color Me Jazzmyne, visit the author’s website at

About the Author:

Marian L. Thomas is a native of Chicago with a passion for the words that reflect the issues that face women today. However, the concept of putting her thoughts into written form wasn’t realized until her second year in high school when she wrestled with the thought of writing a book she then called What Color is Jazzmyne. In fact, twenty years would pass before she finally debuted a more refined version of her original concept, calling it Color Me Jazzmyne. It was just a few years prior to this that she completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Communication, graduating Magna Cum Laude.
Marian now resides in Atlanta, GA with her husband and their spoiled but playful dog. She enjoys writing short stories that have full impact and is currently working on her second novel.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Unconscious Mutterings #354

Unconscious Mutterings
  1. Alarm :: Clock

  2. Guest :: Room

  3. Worm :: Fishing

  4. Puppies :: Awwwwe

  5. Honor :: Respect

  6. No! :: Means NO!

  7. Stomach :: ache

  8. Counter :: tops

  9. Waffles :: IHOP

  10. Plates :: Dishes

Sunday Stealing: The Strange Question Meme, Part 2

26. What color is your watch? I have several, but my fave is gold

27. What do you think of when you hear “Australia”? outback, Nicole Kidman

28. Would you strip for money? lol, yes, but no one would pay

29. Do you go in a fast food place or just hit the drive thru? usually the drive thru

30. What is your favorite number? 3

31. Who’s the last person you talked to on the phone? my son David

32. Any plans today? taking care of a very sick hubby

33. In how many states have you lived? 8

34. Biggest annoyance right now? my cat is driving me crazy

35. Last song listened to? Luke Bryan "Doin my Thing"

36. Can you say the alphabet backwards? yes

37. Do you have a maid service clean your house? no...I wish

38. Favorite pair of shoes you wear all the time? my fave flip flops, I am a flipflopaholic

39. Are you jealous of anyone? No, I don't get jealous

40. Is anyone jealous of you? I would hope not

41. Do you love anyone? Oh yeah.....

42. Do any of your friends have children? yes

43. What do you usually do during the day? work at home on the pc, daily household chores, walk, cook, take care of a terminally ill hubby

44. Do you hate anyone that you know right now? I don't Hate anyone...I however dislike some people very much.

45. Do you use the word hello daily? Yes

46. What color is your car? White

47. What size wedding ring do you wear? 7

48. Are you thinking about someone right now? yes, today is my son Dennis' Birthady..he's been on my mind all morning

49. Have you ever been to Six Flags? yes, several times when we lived in GA

50. How did you get your worst scar? Liver transplant last year

Friday, November 6, 2009

Skywatch Friday

Come join Skywatch Friday. Show us the skies above your head.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

30 Day Giving Challenge Days 4 and 5

Day 4 Wednesday Nov 4

Our friend Jerry needed a ride to an appointment about 45 minutes away, so we took him and loaned him $20.

Day 5 Thursday Nov 5
I am giving myself a little break today. My feet are swelled badly and I feel like crap!!
I also gave Birthday Wishes to my daughter-in-law Regina. She is 34 today!

Thursday 13

13 Reasons to MOVE

1. We hate it here.

2. No medical care within 40 miles, and no transplant care within 150 miles.

3. No Jobs!!!

4. the people are not friendly. The small town (722 residents) are like a high school clique that won't let you in, and believe me I have tried.

5. Only one bank, not ours. Ours is 70 miles away.

6. No grocery store, only a convenience store..nearest grocery is 12 miles away.

7. When it rains you literally cannot get out of town as we are surrounded by rivers and when it rains hard, they rise over the low roads. We discovered this last week.

8. I miss my kids, even though they are grown.

9. I REALLY miss my grandbabies!!!!

10. Our apartment is way too small.

11. I am 30 miles from the places I love, Walmart, McDonalds, Wendys, and I hate it. 150 miles from Michaels, Joanns, thrift stores, all the good places to eat. No fast food here for sure. If you eat, you cooked it.

12. I hate the boonies... and I am living in the boonies.

13. I want to go HOME.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wordless Wednesday Nov 4

SO much rain here last week!
now beautiful skies again!!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Headache, 30 Giving Challenge, and a Recipe

I have had a terrible headache all day, then had to deal with the government (Social Security and the IRS)....UGH!!! Just getting a simple question answered takes forever and then they are rude! Bad day in general.

Since I have had a bad day, my gifts was to both of my grown sons in the form of a phone call to give them some encouragement. One has job problems and the other has the flu.Tomorrow will be a better day for all of us.

My family loves this recipe. I found it on Kates blog several months ago and we Love it! I personally leave out the carrots but that is up to you.

Unstuffed Pepper Skillet Dinner

1 pound ground beef
1/2 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2-3 large green peppers, cut into chunks
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
1/3 c. water
1 t. Italian seasoning
1/2 t. cumin
2 1/2 c. fully cooked rice

1. Brown ground beef and onions n a large skillet. Drain. Add carrots and green peppers. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 2-3 minutes. You want the peppers to stay somewhat crunchy.
2. Stir in tomato sauce, water, Italian seasoning and cumin. Bring to a slow boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
3. Stir in cooked rice until heated through. Top with shredded mozzarella cheese. Serve and enjoy. (Or refrigerate and reheat in oven or microwave just before serving.)
Leftovers of this work great as a burrito filling. Add some chili powder, more cumin and cayenne pepper, roll up in a tortilla and you’re all set.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The 30 Day Giving Challenge - Day 2

I must be coming down with something. Felt bad all day with a headache that won't go away, and I never have headaches.

For my giving challenge today, I won a $50 GC to Expressions Paperie a few weeks ago, and my daughter in law loves that kind of thing almost as much as I do. So for part of the GC, I gave her the cards pictured below. She always has Christmas cards done, so I thought she would like these. Got this photo of the proof this morning and showed it to her. She loves it. Hope you do too.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The 30 day Giving Challenge - Day 1

Alyssa over at says this about the 30 Day Giving Challenge.

"Grab a journal! Join this 30-Day Challenge to give every day during the month of November. You can give your time, talents, money, assets, or just do something nice for a neighbor. Write down every time God prompts you, for 30 days! Then write down every time something comes back to you.There will be a linky and updates throughout the month on my blog. Feel free to spread the word! Let's use the power of social media to inspire a movement of generosity.

I think this is a wonderful idea and acept the challenge. Today I baked a cake, and we gave half of it to my neighbor Jerry, who is alone and doesn't cook for himself. He is elderly and lives on cereal, soup, and anything he can microwave. I know this is small, but the small things are what this is all about to me. We can all make a difference in the lives of others, even if it's just one small act at a time.
Join the challenge HERE.

Unconscious Mutterings #353

  1. Hairbrush :: comb

  2. Sneak :: attack

  3. Hole :: Dig

  4. Horror :: movie

  5. Standard :: premium
  6. Mailbox :: bills

  7. Attachment :: vacuum

  8. Type :: keyboard

  9. Nails :: pink
  10. Storage :: closet

Sunday Stealing Nov 1

The Strange Question Part 1

1. What is the color of your toothbrush? purple and white

2. Name one person who made you smile today. My granddaughter Lily

3. What were you doing at 8 am this morning? checking my email

4. What were you doing 45 minutes ago? eating breakfast

5. What is your favorite candy bar? Snickers with Almonds

6. Have you ever been to a strip club? yes, many times with my ex in another life

7. What is the last thing you said aloud? You need to shave.

8. What is your favorite ice cream? How to choose? Butter Pecan, just because.

9. What was the last thing you had to drink? sweet tea

10. Do you like your wallet? Love it

11. What was the last thing you ate? French Toast Sticks with syrup

12. Have you bought any new clothing items this week? nope

13. The last sporting event you watched? AL vs TN football

14. What is your favorite flavor of popcorn? Kettle corn

15. Who is the last person you sent a text message to? I don't text

16. Ever go camping? every summer several time a year

17. Do you take vitamins daily? yes I do

18. Do you go to church every Sunday? no but I should

19. Do you have a tan? lol, no

20. Do you prefer Chinese food over pizza? I prefer pizza over almost anything

21. Do you drink your soda with a straw? yes

22. What did your last text message say? I told you, I don't text

23. What are you doing tomorrow? running errands, pay bills, clean house

24. Favorite color? green

25. Look to your left; what do you see? a bookshelf full of junk and 1 book

Your turn - Play SUNDAY STEALING today!