Monday, June 27, 2011

Moving Day

The time has come to say farewell to Blogger.

Come join me at www.leighkramer.com to see my new site and finally learn about my Big News!

(On the technical end, I haven't figured out how to move Google Friend Connect yet so please be sure to sign up for a free subscription via Reader or email once you're at the new site.)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

An Update and a Winner

Over the next week I'll be moving HopefulLeigh over to a new domain and a new home at Typepad. This will be my greatest techie triumph if all goes well.

I have a few dreams for this ol' blog of mine and part of that vision includes a bigger and better platform.

Ever since Blissdom, I've been contemplating moving over to another format. Months and months of contemplation. The pros and cons of Wordpress paralyzed me. To go with .com or .org? There were no clear answers.

I did what anyone would do in times of decision-making.  I asked Twitter.

My blog friends Laura and Megan pointed me in the direction of Typepad and I breathed a sigh of relief. It is exactly what I'm looking for. And while activating domains and importing blogs completely freaks me out, the directions have been easy to follow. Word on the street, their Customer Services rocks so should I reach an impasse, I know where to turn.

All this to say, things will be quiet over here until the new site is up and running. Don't worry- I'll point you in the right direction when it's time!

Finally, the giveaway winner for Marla Taviano's new e-book is Kristin from Messiah Mom. Incidentally, I'd encourage you to read her recent post Fighting Ugly if you haven't already. I'm guessing it'll resonate with you as much as it did me. Kristin, I'll be contacting you with the e-book code soon. Congrats!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Giveaway: A Book That Keeps Giving

I first discovered Marla Taviano when she hosted the Radical Read-Along. Since then, I've done another Read-Along with her and been inspired by her family's dream to serve on another mission trip at a Cambodian orphanage.  Plus, she loves thrift stores and the library almost as much as I do. We were destined to be blog friends!



When she first shared about writing The Husband's Guide to Getting Lucky, I thought it was great she was working on another book and then went on my merry way.  But when she shared her vision for this book, I knew I had to get involved.


I know what you're thinking right now.  Leigh, you don't have a husband. Why are you hosting a giveaway for a book about sex?


Because, friends, that's how much I believe in Marla.  I'm sure this book is packed with fantastic advice and information for the menfolk. But I'm more impressed with this: the sales of this book will go straight toward the Taviano's Cambodia Fund.  How cool is that? You and your husband revitalize your bedroom life and you help orphans in Cambodia at the same time!

Here's what the book is about, compliments of the website:

Every red-blooded husband on the planet dreams of a satisfying sex life with his wife, but many are convinced it’s a fantasy that’s out of reach...“When it comes to sex,” Marla says, “husbands get a bad rap, but truthfully, most of them aren’t selfish, lustful pigs that think with their you-know-whats. They just happen to be wired for sexual intimacy and want to enjoy some with the woman they married. Too bad we wives aren’t on the same page.”...With her candid humor, she clues guys in to the way their wives operate and gives them practical suggestions for being husbands their women want to make love to.

And if you're wondering about the cover, yes, it was designed by the talented Wes Molebach.  I'll get to the giveaway details soon but first I'll share a brief interview I did with the ever so talented Marla.


1. Tell me about your evolution as a writer.

Oooh, I like this question. Well, since I started writing when I was four, I've been at it for over three decades now. Wow, huh? I've definitely developed my own unique writing voice over the years--casual, conversational, and (on a good day) witty. I try to stay as true as I can to the actual voice I'd use if we were chatting face to face.

I used to wish I was more poetic or could weave words together in some crazy-amazing way, but then I realized that I do my best writing when I stay true to who God made me to be.

And I don't know that I even remotely answered your question.

2. Why a sex book for men? What makes this different from what's out on the market?

Have you ever heard authors say, "This is the one book I said I'd never write?" Yeah, well, this is that one for me. Why would I write a book for a segment of the population that doesn't even like to read?? Oh, sure, I know guys who read whole books, but they're definitely in the minority. Then I got several e-mails back to back from husbands who read my book, Is That All He Thinks About? and wondered when I was going to write the companion book for men. For the first time in four years, I gave it some serious thought, then just started writing down ideas on a whim. And it took off.

What makes it different? Well, it's fun. And funny. And completely real and transparent. I share my faith and how that colors my views on sex, but the book isn't preachy or dogmatic. I address a tough topic in a light-hearted way, but I don't take lightly what a huge honor and responsibility it is to be entrusted with such a thing.

3. Why did you choose to write an e-book?

Oh, lots of reasons. In no particular order: 

1.) The topic lends itself to an e-book. A guy might be more likely to read an e-book about sex on his phone while sitting in the airport than a real book with the title in plain sight. 
2.) The timeline. I wrote the whole thing in record time, and my web-guru husband worked out all the production details for me. We did it all in a month pretty much (except for a chunk of the writing I already had done). A "real" book would've taken over a year. 
3.) I make less than a dollar in royalties on a book that costs $12.99. I can sell an e-book for $4.99 and keep up to $4 of that in some cases. Nuts. We're making plans to go to Cambodia on a family mission trip at the end of this year, and I would LOVE to earn enough money to reach our goal.
4. What is your prayer for this book?

My prayer is that husbands (and wives) will be infused with hope. Hope for their marriages, their sex lives, their future together. I want to help couples bridge the disconnect when it comes to sex and our male/female views of it. I believe God wants a husband and wife to be fulfilled and satisfied in an intimate, loving marriage. And I think it's a dream that's well within reach.



***

Thanks, Marla!  Now I'm no expert on this subject matter but it seems like both husbands and wives would benefit from a little read through.  The e-book is available in PDF form, as well as for your iPad, Nook, and Kindle.  And at just $4.99, this is a perfect last minute Father's Day present.

Marla has generously offered a free copy to one of my readers.  Entering is easy...
1. Leave a comment!  Tell me about the weather, your plans for Father's Day, or whatever you feel like.

Extra entries:
2. Link to this giveaway from Twitter or Facebook, then leave a comment here telling me you did it.
3. Link to The Husband's Guide to Getting Lucky website from Twitter or Facebook, then comment here that you did so.
4. Follow Marla Taviano on Twitter, then comment that you did so.

This is going to be a quick giveaway.  You have until this Saturday June 18 at 12 pm to enter.  Good luck and spread the word for the sake of marriages every where!

Monday, June 13, 2011

My Someday Something Blue (Four Years)

I'm perched on the edge of your bed, fingers traipsing through your jewelry box, admiring this piece and that. It is strange looking through your necklaces and rosaries while you lay in the living room.

I find a St. Francis medal and laugh. We had been in the kitchen as you washed dishes and I dried. You told me you were praying to St. Francis on behalf of my marital status. The patron saint of lost causes. I might have been offended but you reassured me that this was who you prayed to while you were waiting for Grandpa to propose. Since you've been married for almost 57 years, I'd say it turned out all right.

Even though I don't believe in praying to saints, I tuck the medal away. One more reminder of you and that day. It seems a lifetime ago, instead of a few months. I can't wrap my mind around these changes or think about all that you will miss out on.

How is it possible that you'll never witness my walk down the aisle or cradle the babe I hope to someday birth?  No matter that I'm not guaranteed either will happen. I just thought you would be there, the way you always have been.

It's almost two months since Aunt Teresa died. We are only now getting around to going through her clothes, photo albums, life. Making the piles doesn't ease the loss but we still open drawers and file items away. We say we are making things easier for Grandpa, for after. But maybe we're making it easier for us too. It seemed a natural progression to move on to other rooms.

Still, I knew my place. I could go through Teresa's belongings but not yours. Not until Mom summoned did I peer into your room and collection of baubles.

I don't remember noticing your jewelry before, though these bits and pieces are somehow familiar. How to pick out that which you hadn't yourself bequeathed to me...what was here that would remind me of you?

This is a rare moment in which I'm glad to be the only girl living in-state. Always outnumbered by the boys, today I have no competition and there is no rush.  Mom and the aunts have had first choice and now it's my turn before Clara and Emily arrive by plane.

And then I see it, lopsided from its weight, a large spot of unexpected turquoise. It is not your style but it is perfectly mine. No one remembers seeing you wear it.  But it's here, in your jewelry box.


The design is faded, indicating it was well-worn by someone. All I want to do is to wake you up and ask you about this ring. Did someone give it to you? Did you buy it while out in Arizona visiting your twin? Did you ever wear it?

You might wake up but your mind would be too hazy to remember.  The season for asking and talking and laughing with you is over.

I know with certainty that this is my ring now and I hope that no one else wants it, sighing with relief when it's mine to claim. It fits on my ring finger, which is strangely apt, as if you and St. Francis were conspiring.

It's not a fair trade, you for this ring, but the cancer didn't ask for our opinion.  I wear it for the rest of the weekend, the week, and then your funeral.


I don't know why this not-you turquoise ring speaks to me so. On days that I'm missing you, I put it on and feel a little more OK, a little sassier, a little more me.


And that's what I've needed this past week. You've been gone four years now, Grandma. I wear your unexpected ring and remember all of our talks, how you led by example and taught me so much. How faith in God was your greatest priority and then your family and friends. You deeply loved and were loved deeply in return.

If your then prayers to the patron saint of lost causes someday pay off, this ring will serve as my something blue. I know you won't be looking down on me that day; that's not how heaven operates. But I'll look at this ring and remember and hold you close in my heart just the same.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

It's Not Me, It's You

Because it's June and summer makes everyone happy and busy...

Because I have exciting news brewing...

Because I love my readers ever so much...

I'm going to take it easy for the rest of the month. It won't be completely quiet here though.  I have a few posts planned, as well as a few guest posts coming up.

Soon I'll share my news so be sure to follow or sign up for a free email subscription so you don't miss out! You can also Like this little ol' blog on Facebook. So many options!

Today though is not about me...it's about you.

I'd like to hear from you!  Tell me about who you are, even if this is your first time here, even if I already know you, even if you comment every time I write (you're my favorite, if that's the case!), even if you never comment.  I want to hear about what makes you tick.

Some bloggers call this a "de-lurking day" but let's just say it's a way of becoming acquainted.  So, hello and welcome.

Tell me whatever you'd like. If you're searching for inspiration, answer one of these questions:

What do you care most about in this world?  

If you're a blogger, what's the best post you've written in the past month? 

And most importantly, if you could only eat desserts or snacks for the rest of your life, which would you pick?

Take a moment to say hello.

Monday, June 6, 2011

My Famous Baked Mac and Cheese

The roots of this recipe go back to my first Dinner Club.  It was Kibibi's turn to host. The star of the show was her baked mac and cheese. I'm sure the rest of the meal with amazing but we are all enamored by this cheesy decadence.

I begged Kibibi for the recipe, which she gladly passed on.  I believe her aunt was the one who came up with it.  I've tweaked it in the years since and made it my own. If I happen to mention that I'm making this mac and cheese, friends invite themselves over or mention they're drooling over the memory of the last time I made it for them. 

It is that good.

Now you may wonder why I'm posting a hot dish recipe when it's been in the 90s here.  All I can say is thank God for air conditioning!  I was in need of comfort food last weekend and this fit the bill.

Baked Mac and Cheese
1 lb. any type of pasta, cooked and drained (I prefer penne (big) or ditalini (small))
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1/2 c. mayonnaise (do not substitute Miracle Whip)
1/2 c. sour cream
4 c. cheddar cheese
Reduced Fat Cheez-its, crushed, about half a box's worth
1/2 stick butter (optional)

While the pasta is cooking, prepare a 13x9 casserole dish with cooking spray.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together mayonnaise, sour cream, and cream of mushroom soup.  Once blended, add cheese and mix well.

When pasta is al dente, drain the water and then add to the mayo-cheese concoction.  Then spread this into the casserole dish.  Sprinkle the crushed Cheez-its on top, as much or as little as you'd like. This will add a nice crunch and texture to the mac and cheese.  If desired, cut the butter into pats and place these at regular increments on top of the Cheez-its. The butter takes it even further over the top!

Bake for 45 minutes or until Cheez-its are slightly browned.  Prepare to be delighted and then adored by all who enjoy the Mac and Cheese!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

May Somethings

May turned out to be hectic but that didn't keep me from reading, listening, cooking, and so on. A few of my highlights...

I Read: First, I'd like to thank everyone for all the feedback on my Book Nerds Unite series.  I seriously loved talking books with you all and adding some titles to my To Read list.

I finally finished 1000 Gifts (Voskamp), which earned a spot on my bookshelf amongst my favorite books.  I love her approach and perspective to grace and gifts. You may remember that I started counting the gifts when I picked up her book back in March.  I've just written down my 446th gift. This blows me away!


(I read 7 books this month.)

Currently Reading: The Right to Write (Cameron) has been lovely.  Freshly picked up from the library:  Blood, Bones, and Butter (Gabrielle Hamilton). I've read fantastic reviews and I'm a sucker for books by chefs. And then 3 from the YA category: Across the Universe (Beth Revis), As You Wish (Jackson Pearce), and Shiver (Maggie Stiefvater). Interestingly, most of the YA books have been mentioned by blog friends in the past year. I thought it was time to give them a whirl!

TV: Season finales were more miss than hit for me. The ones I loved were for Chuck (it will take them in interesting directions next season), The Vampire Diaries (seriously blew me away! Oh, that Damon.), and Parenthood (why does every episode invariably make me cry?)


I'm excited that So You Think You Can Dance is back on the air!  If you follow me on Twitter, you may find me discussing the show as it happens with some of my other similarly obsessed friends.

Even though I found Ashley to be crazy annoying on The Bachelor, I have been watching The Bachelorette, if only to make fun of her glaring lack of discernment.  For those who are watching, is Bentley not one of the slimiest guys that's ever been on the show? As in, next week he's going to tell her he doesn't like her and never has- he went on to promote his business and has repeatedly said he wishes that Emily had been the Bachelorette instead. I hope he's the exception, not the rule when it comes to single men. Because me? I need a good guy and he is so not it.

Movies: I rented How Do You Know with Paul Rudd, Reese Witherspoon, and Owen Wilson. I did not have high hopes but I like all 3 actors. It was funny but the characters were SO awkward! And the ending was completely implausible, which was irritating.  Then I rented The Switch, which I actually did have high hopes for.  I mean, Jason Bateman is in it! Anyone who likes Arrested Development can understand where I'm coming from.  But if we want to talk about "this would never happen in real life," this movie would be at the top of the list. From the first few minutes until the very end. So disappointing!  Finally I watched Sex and the City 2. Though I never watched the show when it was on, I've watched reruns here and there and really enjoyed the first movie. Let's just say it wasn't as good as the first.  

I did get to see one of my favorite movies (500) Days of Summer at Movie in the Park last night.  It's always good watching a movie outside with a crowd, especially when The Grilled Cheeserie and The Cupcake Collection are nearby. 

Any good movie recommendations? 

In the Kitchen: For Easter I made Lemon Thyme Chicken with Sauteed Zucchini Ribbons. The zucchini ribbons are pure heaven.

I've taken my Ben and Jerry's ice cream obsession to a whole new level.  I bought 4 flavors the other day.  I can't get enough of Red Velvet Cake and Peanut Butter World. In fact, PBW may be my all-time favorite ice cream.  I have always loved chocolate peanut butter ice cream and they nailed it.

Listening:
I went to Music City Roots the other week, as The Civil Wars were playing.  It was my 4th time seeing them this past year! Call me a groupie- I'm OK with that.  But the real surprise of the night was The Vespers.  They are incredible!  Loved the music, the harmonies, the look, all of it.  And how nice for you that they've put their album up on NoiseTrade!

What were your May highlights? I'd love to hear your recommendations!

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon from HopefulLeigh, any purchase you make supports this site.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Books I Used to Like that Now Make Me Cringe

Now before I get started, let me say I have no wish to offend you, your taste in books, or the authors that wrote these books.  At one time, I thought the books and authors listed below were the bee's knees.  However, I have reread them in more recent years and had a change in heart.

If you still like them, kudos to you!  There's no judgment here. I'm glad you like them, really I am!  Someone took the time to write a book and that is no easy feat. They're just not for me anymore.

A partial list of the Books I Used to Like that Now Make Me Cringe:
The Babysitters Club series- Ann M. Martin  I read my first BSC book in 3rd grade. I could not wait to start babysitting! Mary Ann, Kristy, Claudia, Stacy, they all became my guides. Chances are, you had a favorite BSCer. I always felt Stacy was the coolest, what with her NYC background and hip 80s fashion. But oh, the writing. And the scads of backstory each and every book! To this day, I can remember that Claudia was the artsy one who hid junk food in her room and thought she might be adopted because she wasn't like her brainy parents and sister, who may have been named Janine. (Is that right? Why do I remember her sister's name???)  I ended up skipping the 3 to 4 pages about each girl as the series progressed. Great books for that time of my life but I'd rather eat chalkdust than read one again.

Jeannette Oke- I believe I was in 3rd grade when a teacher recommended I give the Love Comes Softly series a try. I can remember her standing in our school library, feeling proud I was an advanced enough reader to give "more grown-up" books a try. She just loved Oke's books. In fact, I remember working at The Christian Bookstore many years later and selling her the latest ones.  By that time, I was less than impressed with the plots.  I had romanticized the characters in Loved Comes Softly and her other series. I tried to reread the few that I owned several years ago and just couldn't do it.  While written for adults, they read at a much younger reading level. But hey, they entertained me for quite awhile and I'm sure that teacher is still buying the newest title year after year.

Mary Higgins Clark Initially I was astounded by her mysteries. The twists! The turns! Who the killer turned out to be! And then I realized just how formulaic they were. I'll always have a fond place in my heart for Loves Music, Loves to Dance and Where Are The Children? but I'd prefer not to have solved the case by page 5.

Redeeming Love- Francine Rivers  OK, OK, I can hear the indignant protests from a mile away!  The first two times I read this, I bawled like the rest of you. Then I tried to read it a few years ago and I just. could. not.  It was painful, I tell you. Painful.  I didn't want to not like this book that has touched so many people's lives. But there it was. I'm choosing not to reread her Mark of the Lion series or The Atonement Child because I'd like them to remain pristine in my mind.

Sweet Valley High series- Francine Pascal Tell me truly. Did you want to be Elizabeth or Jessica? I loved the twins' adventures and romances.  Sweet Valley seemed like such a great place, whether we were reading about high school or graduating to college SVU.  And I loved the two stand alone books that looked at the Wakefield lineage! However, well-written these are not, perhaps because this is a ghostwritten series.  I'm glad that Young Adult lit's standards have risen since the Sweet Valley days because there's no way they can stand the test of time. The latest incarnation Sweet Valley Confidential has been raked over the coals by critics and fans alike. I'm going to let Jessica and Elizabeth stay in the past where they belong. I wonder if the Canby Hall series would be any better?

Winter Dreams, Christmas Love- Mary Francis Shura Oh, the love story between high school freshman Ellen and her upperclassman crush Michael. My heart swoons at the very thought! In fact, during high school my best friends and I convinced our guy friends to help us recreate our favorite WDCL scenes, in which I played Ellen and my friend Ryan played Michael. Little did I know that the guys were taking bets on whether Ryan would really kiss me during our Big Scene. (He didn't. Once I learned about the bet, I wasn't sure whether to be angry, embarrassed, or disappointed. Those were the days!)  This was YA lit at its finest circa mid90s. It may be telling that this book has been out of print for quite some time.  But I'm keeping my copy for nostalgic reasons and perhaps because I'm still a sucker for a good love story, even if it's poorly written and poorly plotted.

Stay tuned for more reasons why Leigh Likes Books:



Agree? Disagree? Do you have any books you used to like that now make you cringe?Are there any future Book Nerds Unite categories you'd like to suggest?


Thank you everyone, for indulging me in this series. It has been so fun to talk books and add to my To Read list, as well as remember the favorites I'd forgotten all about.