Race Week Is Here

I have to admit that I am heading into the Quintiles Bull City Race Fest with a bit of trepidation. I am not properly trained. I am scraping together the money for the trip as my business has slowed quite a bit since last year. The trip, though, has expanded to include my adult daughter and a stop in Greenville, SC for her to see Little Big Town on Friday night. I’m excited for traveling with her.

I am running a half marathon on Sunday. My goal is to finish. I am sure I will meet that goal but it may be a tough one. I would like to finish the race in two hours and 45 minutes. I would stretch and say I would like to finish in 2:30 but I do not think that is possible this time around.

You can find a photo of Flat Nicki (pre-race so Sat night) on my Instagram feed some time Sat evening. While you are there, follow me if you would like.

I’m off to plot out travel routes and see if any of the roads we are going to be on will have to be re-routed due to the horrible flooding South Carolina experienced recently. I do not think this will be an issue but having never been to Greenville, who knows?


New Series – A Veteran’s Christmas – Book Review


To those who still suffer the wounds of war.

Kelly Kennedy thought her life was finally on track. Engaged to the man of her dreams and with a baby on the way, she reassures her five-year-old daughter, Bree, that the father she picked for Christmas still loves her.

Unfortunately, war veteran Tyler Manning has been away most of the year. Recovering from PTSD isn’t easy. Rather than worry Kelly, Tyler spends his time traveling to Afghanistan to work at a children’s charity he founded.

Kelly decides to distract Bree with promises of a pet for Christmas. When Tyler is taken hostage by terrorists, she finds it hard to convince Bree that they will truly be a family in time for Christmas.

A Pet for Christmas is a sequel A Father for Christmas. While it can be read as a standalone, you’ll get more of the relationship aspect between Kelly, Tyler, and Bree by reading A Father for Christmas first.

Available to buy from…
“Heartwarming story of hope and second chances.” – Ruth Davis on Book 1, A Father for Christmas

“Absolutely breathtaking love story.” – Amber McCallister on Book 1, A Father for Christmas

Also Available

A Father for Christmas (A Veteran’s Christmas Book 1)

To all the veterans who gave so much.

Single mother Kelly Kennedy can’t afford lavish gifts for her four-year-old daughter, Bree. Homeless veteran Tyler Manning doesn’t believe he deserves a Merry Christmas.

When Bree asks Santa for a father and picks Tyler, both Tyler and Kelly vow to keep Bree from being hurt while fighting their feelings for each other.

Tyler struggles with frightening flashbacks that scare Kelly. Meanwhile, Kelly’s criminal past threatens her chance for happiness. Tyler and Kelly must believe in the power of love to give Bree her best Christmas ever.

Available to buy from…

About the author

Rachelle Ayala is a bestselling Asian American author of dramatic romantic suspense and humorous, sexy contemporary romances. Her heroines are feisty and her heroes hot. She writes emotionally challenging stories but believes in the power of love and hope.

Rachelle is the founder of an online writing group, Romance in a Month, an active member of the California Writer’s Club, Fremont Chapter, and a volunteer for the World Literary Cafe. She is a very happy woman and lives in California with her husband. She has won awards in multicultural and historical romance.

Find the author on the following pages….

Website   Facebook   Twitter   Pinterest   Google+   Goodreads  Amazon Author Page

Follow the tour
 I read both A Father for Christmas and A Pet for Christmas for this review. I loved both books and was enthralled with the fact that either could be read as a stand alone or the two could be read together. I do love falling in love with characters in a book and then finding them again in a sequel.
In A Father for Christmas, we are first introduced to Kelly, her young daughter Bree and Tyler. There is nothing like opening a book with a scene in a crowded mall and a lost child at the holidays. Even living in a small town, the mall gets too crowded between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Small children have minds of their own and seldom do those minds include wanting to wait for anything.
As Kelly finds Bree via the mall security cameras, Bree is with a homeless man. Kelly, assumes the worst and hurries to pull her daughter from the man. She finds out later Tyler is a decorated veteran and, while homeless, not a threat to her daughter.
The relationship between Kelly and Tyler is woven throughout the book and includes many ups and downs. The book left me wondering what happens in the future with Kelly, Tyler and Bree.
To find out the future, I picked up A Pet for Christmas which tells of the next Christmas when Kelly and Tyler are starting their own family and Bree is wondering who her real father is, not the Papa she asked Santa for the previous year.
As any parent will tell you, once a child enters school, even kindergarten, you had better be prepared for anything. There is no telling what questions a child will come home with as they are exposed to others from different family values and who may be considerably older. Younger children tend to believe anything they are told by an older child so be prepared. Kelly was not and Bree tested her with questions from the kids at school.
This particular book also takes Tyler back to the war zone so has a split setting. I am not big on war zone fiction. I’m not big on war zone anything but I tend to want my fiction to be more fiction and less truth. Ayala does a great job mixing the US setting with Tyler’s setting in Afghanistan. She does not dwell to much in war territory but it is there with all the pitfalls that come with it.
I loved both books, A Father for Christmas and A Pet for Christmas. I truly cannot wait to read the next book in this series.

I received this book to review through Beck Valley Books Book Tours, all the opinions above are 100% my own.
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Songs and Memories

I have no idea why this particular song is on my running playlist but “Kristofferson” sung by Tim McGraw came on as I was about mile four of my 5.5 miles this morning. The lyrics got me to thinking of the “Dear John” letter I would have written for my last relationship if I had put it in words on paper.

Dear John (not his real name),

I love you but … yes, isn’t there always a but? It is not enough. I know you will think I’m lying. I am not.

I love you but I do not love your attitude. I’m, as I am almost certain you would describe me, a glass half full kind of girl. I may miss the sunshine on a cloudy day but I don’t mind puddle stomping to make the best of the rain. You’re a glass three quarters empty kind of guy. Everything is a problem. Even the sunny days seem to bring you down.

I love you but do not love the me I am when I am with you. I let you separate me from friends and family. Yes, I understand that is a sign of a bad relationship. I should have spoken up but always seemed afraid to assert myself with you. I saw you as too fragile to take my issues with how I was changing.

I wish you nothing but the best but not with me. Someone out there is the person for you but that person is not me.


And there it is. “I’m gonna tell you how I feel, straight up genuine and real… Like Kristofferson would do.”



What a Weekend for Football!

This past weekend was a football lover’s dream. All the football I could have wanted to watch had me thinking back to tailgates in college and even more recent ones as a parent of a high school football player. Granted both of these were very different but still tailgate parties.

Friday night my local high school put its win streak on the line. A win and they would hold sole position of the NYS record. The team has won four straight state championships and now has won 56 straight games.

WVU SU Game - Old game but one I was at

Saturday, I managed to catch my Mountaineers on television. It is not often West Virginia games are played on television in Upstate NY, especially since they left the Big East for the Big 12. While WVU didn’t win, it was a great game and a tailgate in Norman, where the game was, would have been spectacular.

And, finally, Sunday had me waiting until the late afternoon game to see my Vikings play. Again, not too often the Vikings are on in Upstate NY. I am sure it was made easier by at least one NY team playing in London so that freed up a time slot. Add to that the fact the Vikings were playing the Broncos and it made for great television.

Now, do you tailgate only when at a game? I like to set up a tailgate spread here at home for games.

While I often use this recipe for a holiday gift, I also enjoy it while watching a good football game. Spicy almonds make for nice light snack.


Spiced Almonds

Another favorite of mine for tailgating is hummus with veggies or crackers. You can find three different hummus recipes here.

If you are looking for additional ways to add a bit healthier food to your tailgate, check out Nuts.com’s healthy snack page. I found lots of goodies there.

Do you tailgate? What is your favorite tailgate food?

Hiking at Salt Springs

Do you like to get out in the woods and go for a hike? I love hiking, having done a great deal of it when I was younger. While I was camping Labor Day weekend, I went hiking at Salt Springs State Park.

Salt Springs has over 15 miles of hiking trails. I hiked on about three of those but managed to see another almost three when I ran the trail race on Saturday of the same weekend

You may be directed to a road to get from one trail to another.

You may be directed to a road to get from one trail to another. 

There are a variety of terrains and even a boardwalk. You can look out at the falls – much prettier, I’m sure, when there has been recent rain.


Boardwalk along the Overlook Trail at Salt Springs State Park

Boardwalk along the Overlook Trail at Salt Springs State Park

Bunny Trail - I think

Bunny Trail – I think

There is also diverse wildlife that can be seen on the trails. I did not see much other than different species of birds and all were too quick for me to get photos.

The park also has many events going on throughout the year. Try visiting for guided hike.


I love to go camping. I camped with my grandmother as a child, although nowadays I do not look at a 32 foot travel trailer as camping. I prefer a tent.

After a very busy summer and a trail race scheduled for Saturday of Labor Day weekend, I decide to camp the entire weekend at the park holding the race. As an out of state resident, tent camping was only $21 a night on weekends and a little less on nights other than Friday and Saturday. I could spend a weekend out of doors. I could hike. I could bike. I could run my race.

All the gear as I was waiting on my son to pick me up

All the gear as I was waiting on my son to pick me up


I admit it looks like a lot of gear but ultimately, it was not much. I could have taken a smaller tent but was unsure of the night prior to the trail race. I had let other runners know I was camping and a couple had indicated they may join me. Consequently, I took the six person tent.

The weather Labor Day weekend was perfect. The nights got a bit cool. I even closed all the tent “windows” on Sunday night. It was warm during the day. I did not need jeans but did take a denim shirt for those cooler nights.

I camped at Salt Springs State Park in Franklin Forks, PA. The park hosts 13 or 14 tent sites (the current map shows 10 as new ones were added this year) and three cabins. I spent my weekend at tent site 6.

My tent - not quite set up properly but for a beautiful weekend, it worked

My tent – not quite set up properly but for a beautiful weekend, it worked

All my gear but the tent and chairs

All my gear but the tent and chairs

The cooking set up for the weekend

The cooking set up for the weekend

Across the meadow from my secluded tent site were cabins 2 and 3 and other tent sites. Despite the beautiful weekend, not all the tent sites were full but the cabins were.

I would definitely recommend tent camping at Salt Springs. Cabin camping might be okay also. There is little or no cell service in parts of the park. There is a pay phone near the house that is prior to the trails. My only complaint is with my own issues in not getting my water hot enough for Saturday morning’s coffee. I took a little extra time on Sunday and Monday mornings and had very hot coffee both mornings.

I took a few photos of the trails as I was hiking on Sunday but will probably put those in a separate post. The park offers events of varying kinds throughout the year so keep an eye on their website.


Return to Me – A Book Review

New Release….
Eighteen-year-old Sadie Stark, raised by the governor of Pennsylvania, has the world on a string. She doesn’t need the mother who left her any more than she needs the fiance who promises to change. What she needs is to finish college, and keep her wits about her.

When war-bound James Pasko returns her stolen clutch, and shows her what’s missing in her life, she gains the courage to search for the truth about her past.

What Sadie uncovers rattles her to the core. But James’ steadfast love gives her hope for the future—for the first time—even as the war tears them apart.

When James disappears over enemy lines and Sadie makes a startling discovery, she must decide to follow in the footsteps of the mother who gave her away, or face a life of hardship like she’s never known.

Available to buy from….
“A sweeping, romantic debut that brings the war-time forties to vivid life in this Titanic meets Philomena tale—fast-paced, tender, and real.” —RITA Award-winning Author Gwyn Cready
 “Menke’s writing is so lovely, you will want to wrap yourself in her words and savor each moment you spend in Sadie’s story. Return To Me will tug on your heart strings and take you on a journey back in time.” —Dana Faletti, Author of the Whisper Trilogy
 “A timeless tale of love, loss and sacrifice that will equally break and warm your heart, as you cheer for the beautifully complex characters until the very last page.” —Lori M. Jones, Author of Renaissance of the Heart
About the Author

Carolyn Menke is the author of “A Little Known Truth” and “The Survival Guide to Mommy-hood,” both published in “Beyond the Diaper Bag.” Her flash fiction piece “Full Circle” took first place in the Writer’s Type literary competition in July 2012. “Baba’s Bananas” also placed first at Writer’s Type in March 2011, and was later awarded first runner-up overall for the
yearly competition in the same category.

A storyteller with an entrepreneurial spirit, she started a marketing communications business with clients ranging from local start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. Prior to that she worked as a marketing communications specialist for high-tech companies. She gained valuable public speaking experience while leading corporate and educational training workshops. Recently, she was a guest speaker at Wexford Elementary, and has been invited to share her latest novel, Return To Me, with area reading clubs.

The author earned a bachelor’s degree in professional writing from Carnegie Mellon University and a master’s degree in marketing communications from Duquesne University. She is a member of Pennwriters and two writing critique groups.

Find the author on the following sites…

Website    Facebook    Twitter    Pinterest    Goodreads 

Follow the book tour

I am a huge fan of historical fiction and romance novels. When I find a book that combines the two, I get excited. Return to Me by Carolyn Menke did just that. It excited me and took me back in time, but not so far back I couldn’t picture things.


Set briefly in 1972 – two chapters, Menke’s book is set mostly in the 1940s as the US is shipping troops overseas for World War II. While I grew up in an era that didn’t see people my age shipped off to war, I remember the heartbreak as my children’s friends signed up for the military after 9/11.


Sadie is a student at Byrn Mawr when she meets James as he is heading to basic training at Fort Dix. Many things plot against the two of them from Sadie’s aunt wanting her to marry someone else to James’s service to the country to the disparities in their upbringing. They have one night together prior to his deployment and, as one would anticipate nowadays, they make love. The following life events make the novel amazing.

I highly recommend you put yourself in either Sadie’s or James’s shoes as you read Return to Me.

I received this book to review through Beck Valley Books Book Tours, all the opinions above are 100% my own.
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