Weekly Photo: Abandoned

By Nora Vasconcelos


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Delicious Homemade Treats

By Nora Vasconcelos

9781612431215.02I know from my own experience that it’s often hard to resist the temptation when it comes to snacks, both sweet and salty. I also know that once you’ve got the bag or package of chips or cookies the idea of going back to light food appears.

For Casey Barber the solution was to develop the popular snack recipes on her own in order to produce delicious homemade, preservative-free, treats that are similar to the popular commercial ones, like cream cookies; chocolate or orange spongy little cakes filled with cream; tasty, kind of salty, sometimes cheesy or spicy crackers, and most of those common treats that go so well with the Sunday brunch or during the movie marathons.

“There’s a ‘mad scientists’ feel to reverse-engineering these treats, dissecting each layer of an oatmeal crème pie or licking the life out of a barbecue potato chip to analyze the exact spice blend”, says Barber in her book Classic Snacks Made from Scratch, where she includes 70 homemade versions of popular brand-name snacks.

Each one of her recipes explains in a very detailed way how this snacks can be made at home, either to enjoy them on your own or to treat your love ones with them. The only difficult thing here is to decide which recipe to prepare first!

To help you out with this decision, the book, published by Ulysses Press, is divided in sections that cover Cookies, Cakey treats, Cheese snacks, Salty snacks, Ice Cream treats and Sweets and Candies.

Then, when all the treats are ready, it’s time to enjoy them, share them, and if you’re strong enough as not to finish all of them at once, storage them for a few minutes or a week, whatever the recipe advises… or your appetite decides.

*All photos courtesy of Ulysses Press/Judi Swinks Photography

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Weekly Photo: Three Picture Story

By Nora Vasconcelos

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Weekly Photo: Treasure

By Nora Vasconcelos

Treasure by NVS

These amazing cooconut plants grow in the middle of a beach covered with lava sand!

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Never give up on your dreams

By Nora Vasconcelos

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Have you ever wondered what it’d be like if you could live abroad for a year? John and Nancy Petralia did it, and from this question, their dream became a plan and, at the age of sixty something, they told everyone that they would be leaving their home in New Jearsey to live in Italy for a year.

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What sounded like a marvelous idea then it became true, with all the ups and downs that always come attached to reality. And all those challenges started even before they had packed.

Finding a place to live in Italy, was one of those challenges, along with fitting the dream into the real life. The romantic idea of a Tuscan Village, that came, partially from the famous movie Under the Tuscan Sun, and in part from the questions of their friends, as if they were going to rent a village, make them focused on what they actually could afford. With an appartment secured in Bologna, the dream started.

Then, the akward face of reality appeared again. The living conditions were not exactly what they had expected, and the town, although interesting, didn’t fit into the dream either. But John and Nancy didn’t give up, not even when dealing with a medical emergency abroad in a different language, made them wonder if they should come back to America. But they didn’t, on the contrary, they kept up with their plan of staying in Italy for a year to learn its language and its customs, as well as to travel around and appreciate, first hand, all the wonders that this European country has to offer to those who love art, tasty food, good wine and breathtaking landscapes.

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Redesigning their plan, the couple looked not only for a new place but also for a new city where they could be able to ride freely their bikes, mingle with more people and somehow, feel more at home while away from home.

Patience, perseverance and time worked out when they managed to move to Parma, where things finally started to fall into place. It was there, when they actually felt that their dream had come true. Now, they just had to make the most of it, and they did it. Opera shows, how to make Italian cheese experiences, Thanksgiving in a foreign country, encounters with new friends, the visit of old good friends, all of this became part of their time in Italy.

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And from all these experience, John and Nacy wrote an exceptional book which they titled Not in a Tuscan Villa, where they tell not only their experiences and describe with great detail the places they visited, but also talk about how hard they worked every day to integrate themselves into the rhythm and syle of this country, where they were actually living in, and not just visiting.

“It took us about a year to write the book and another six months for rewrites and editing changes. We belonged to a writers’ group at our local library that met every week and critiqued each others’ work. That kept us focused and gave us a goal each week.”, tells me Nancy Petralia.

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But the dream didn’t end when they came back to America, on the contrary, their year in Italy gave them a new set of dreams, plans and goals in life. Many things in the way they see life changed from their Italian experience and they’re ready to enjoy life even more. So, as Nancy says, they’re heading back to Italy soon to travel around and visit friends. It’ll be their third time back since their Italian year ended.

Their time in Italy also gave them, specially John, an idea for a possible new book, one based on the life of Giuseppe Garibaldi. For that, a trip to South America might be in their near future where they want to visit Montevideo, Uruguay, another key place in Garibaldi’s life.

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*All images courtesy of John and Nancy Petralia

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The mysterious journey of writing

By Nora Vasconcelos

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Jane Isaac loves travelling, both around the world and through the virtual universe that lives in books. This passion to get to know what’s out there has turned into another one, writing. And even though, she does it part time, her first mystery novel An Unfamiliar Murder has caugth the attention of lots of people and it was nominated as best mystery in the ‘eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook awards 2013.’

Now, the sequel, The Truth Will Out, is set to be released on April 1st, and Jane is ready to work on another mystery book.

While she enjoys some time at her home in Northamptonshire, United Kingdom, she talks to me (thanks to the wonders of technology) about her career as an author:

– What can you tell me about your new book?
The Truth Will Out is the long awaited sequel to An Unfamiliar Murder and sees how DCI Helen Lavery faces her toughest case yet. There’s plenty to keep her busy as she clashes with superiors in pursuance of the truth and she has a love interest too! Let me share my blurb with you:

“Everything’s going to be okay.”
“What if it’s not?”
Suddenly, she turned. For a split second she halted, her head inclined.
“Naomi, what is it?”
She whisked back to face Eva.
“There’s somebody in the house…”
Eva is horrified when she witnesses an attack on her best friend. She calls an ambulance and forces herself to flee Hampton, fearing for her own safety. DCI Helen Lavery leads the investigation into the murder. With no leads, no further witnesses and no sign of forced entry, the murder enquiry begins.
Slowly, the pieces of the puzzle start to come together. But as Helen inches towards solving the case, her past becomes caught up in her present.
Someone is after them both. Someone who will stop at nothing to get what they want. And as the net starts to close around them, can Helen escape her own demons as well as helping Eva to escape hers?

The Truth Will Out

– Why do you like to write mysteries?
I set out to write a page turning, rollercoaster ride of a book with characters that feel real, and twists and turns aplenty. Basically, a book that I would like to read myself. I figured if I enjoyed the story, then perhaps others would too.

– Where do you find your sources of inspiration?
I’ve always been fascinated when extraordinary things happen to ordinary people. Most of us live in a bubble, our lives relatively untouched by law enforcement. What happens if we are forced into such a situation? How would we react?

I love people watching, so I guess my ideas come from all around me.

– How and when was it that you started writing?
Almost fourteen years ago, my husband and took a year out to travel the world and kept a daily diary recording our experiences. On our return I found that the copious photos we took drew on memories, but it was reading the diary that transported me back to the sweet smell of Kuala Lumpur, to hear the of street music of Bangkok, feel the thick heat that pervades the wonderfully clean Singapore, see the red earth of Australia. Realising the power of words, it was this diary that prompted me to study creative writing, first at The Writers Bureau and later with the London School of Journalism.

I wrote a few short stories and in 2008 I decided to embark on my first novel, An Unfamiliar Murder. It took about 18-24 months to plan, research, write, edit and complete.

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– Was it difficult for you to find a publisher?
Hmm. The road has been a little rocky. When I finished An Unfamiliar Murder I was still studying creative writing and it was my tutor who encouraged me to submit it to agents. I didn’t expect a positive response (you get so used to receiving rejections in this game) so you can imagine my surprise when two agents expressed an interest!

I signed with a London agent and we worked on the novel to edit it before he submitted it to the major publishing houses and, although the feedback was very positive, nobody signed the book. The rights reverted to me and I decided to try my luck with the independent publishers and quickly signed with Rainstorm Press.

For my second book I decided to pursue a UK publisher to help with the distribution over here which meant I had to plunge myself back into the submissions process once again. Luckily it was picked up by the lovely Legend Press team in London.

– Do you have a writing routine?
As a working mum, my time is finely juggled so I’m afraid I don’t have a regular writing routine. I can often be found poolside typing into my laptop while my daughter is in her swimming class, or jotting ideas down while standing in a supermarket queue.

– What are your favorite books to read?
Goodness, I have so many! Recent books I’ve loved include Alex by Pierre Lemaitre, Before I Go To Sleep by S J Watson and Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes.

– Which have been your favorite travelling experiences?
I loved the mix of glaciers, geysers, fjords and rural landscape in New Zealand. Riding elephants in the rocky Northern Province of Chang Mai, Thailand was pretty special. Also, watching the sun set on Waikiki beach… Oh, there’s so many.

– What country or city you wish you could visit right now?
Reykjavik in Iceland. I think it would be amazing, especially if we got to see the Northern Lights!

– Any ideas for a new book?
My latest work in progress is a crime thriller based in nearby Stratford upon Avon. I’m presently undertaking lots of research field visits which I am enjoying immensely!

-Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you for inviting me on to your travel blog, Nora. It’s been a pleasure to be interviewed by you!

*All images Courtesy of Jane Isaac

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