#RockinReads Giveaway and Tattooed Baristas

rockin reads

I have several major passions…. Most of you who’ve stopped by my page pretty regularly know that one of my big addictions is coffee. In fact, it’s a big part of what began a beautiful friendship with one of my favorite authors (who has since become a friend), Lissa Matthews.

We have a mutual passion for coffee, experimenting in the kitchen, hotties…and she’s a terrific writer. I was a total fan girl first. She made my day the first time she responded to one of my Tweets. Her Blue Jeans and Hard Hats series is one of my all time favorites. Her Simple Need series? A close second… And don’t even get me started on how much I love her gay romances. Yum!

Tattooed Barista

And then she comes out with this awesome new series that surrounds some of our favorite commonalities. How could I not share something with a cover this HAWT and a story this fun?

Don’t believe me? Check out this blurb:

Derek Forrester couldn’t lie his way out of a paper bag, but somehow he’s managed to convince his less than approving high society mother of his engagement to the teal haired, dangerously curved, tattoo covered, coffee cart owning girl named Peggy.

Peg, not ‘Peggy’, is far from amused by Derek’s fib, but the way he kissed, left her wondering what might have been if she hadn’t been paid to play along.

The stakes are higher than the original bargaining price, a new business is getting off the ground, and it’s going to take a whole lot more than caffeine to get through this wedded mess.

Sounds like terrific fun, right? The Tattooed Barista has one of the coolest, most unique covers I’ve seen in a long time and I’m in love with it.

Want a chance to win a copy? I want you to share your favorite coffee shop drink and the title to one of Lissa Matthews’ books that YOU think is most intriguing based on the cover or blurb…or if you’ve read her stuff. You have until the end of September 30th EST to qualify to win!

And if you haven’t met Lissa yet, Stop by her Facebook or Twitter and say hello. Not for points. Just because she’s cool as $hit….and tell her I’ve been bragging on her and how amazing I think she is.

And if you’re looking for more books to win? CLICK the button below. It will guide you to other participating blogs!

Enjoying Epicurian Diversity Chicago Style

My Sweet Home, Chicago!

My Sweet Home, Chicago!

 

There isn’t much that rejuvenates and inspires quite like a trip back to a place where you feel roots and strong ties; to land, community, and the general life. Going back home to Chicago is always a special treat for me because I get the opportunity to explore so many different ethnic foods (that I miss when I’m away). I also get the chance to spend time with people I love, who love me back and know the me I used to be and appreciate the person I’ve become. The above view is the Chicago skyline taken from the balcony of my sister’s condo where I was staying.

Mmmm.... Sushi!

Mmmm…. Sushi!

I got to do all of the above on this trip…and also had the chance to enjoy the musical mecca that Chicago becomes in the summertime. I knew this trip was going to be foodie fantastic when my sister picked me up from the airport and we started our weekend with sushi. Neither her hubby nor mine are big fans, and neither were with us, so we indulged at this fantastic place called Kamehachi. Our server was wonderful, the food was beautifully prepared, and we were able to enjoy outside seating in mid-70 weather.

My sister was also a big fan of their hibiscus tea. Me? I believe you don’t fruit the salad and you don’t flower the tea…LOL! But it worked for her, and it was refreshing. Did I mention we also did not have a wait to be seated? Heck, in Chi-town, the Open Table app is all the rage to prevent wait times, but it never became a concern. We still used it several times, though. Better safe than sorry.

Tapas and Café Iberico

Tapas and Café Iberico

Dinner that night was later, so we decided on some fun, not too heavy fare. One of the beautiful things about Chicago means being able to WALK to many of the places we visit. This beautiful evening was no exception. After my brother-in-law got off work we headed to Café Iberico for some tasty tapas!

For those of you who don’t know the history of tapas, it’s kind of interesting. This was Castillian Spain’s version of bar food. In fact, even the word tapas is a reference to lids….often used to cover the food to keep fruit flies away. 🙂 Want to know more about the stuff? Click HERE for your Spanish history lesson!

Lemon Pancakes and Asparagus, mushroom, and bacon omelet

Lemon Pancakes and Asparagus, mushroom, and bacon omelet

The following morning my sister introduced me to the joys of brunch at Kingsbury Street Café. Nestled next to the VIP Lounge (Yes, Phil, it’s a strip club), it served the most luscious lemon pancakes. Because my sister’s sweet, and I’m a bit savory, we decided to order stuff we could share. Their multigrain toast baguettes were fresh, with a sweetness that did not require any jams (at least in my opinion). The omelet? To die for…AND they didn’t overcook the asparagus. Did I mention they had fabulous coffee as well?

What was really awesome was that one of my childhood best friends had left her kids with her hubby and come into the city to spend the weekend with us…just like we did when we were kids. Don’t get me wrong, I’d have loved to hang out with her munchkins, but this was some much needed grown up unwinding time, complete with booze.

Drinks and Indian Food

Drinks and Indian Food

Breakfast at Hotel Sister

Breakfast at Hotel Sister

Yup! Once she got to town we decided it was the perfect time to pop her cherry. It turned out, she’d never had Indian food, so we took her to Jaipur Indian Restaurant and introduced her to the joys of things like naan, samosas, chicken tikka masala, dal, and the ever so tasty gulab jamun!

And when we’re eating all sorts of flavor exploding dishes, it only made sense to enjoy some lemon-tinis. 🙂

Of course, the morning of the concert I had the pleasure of enjoying familial hospitality at my sister’s place. She made the most amazing baked French toast with a caramel praline topping. She even had home made/tapped syrup that a close friend of theirs harvests on his own. How cool is that?

She also pampered me with awesome cappuccinos and lattes that she made, herself. The only thing missing was the fancy froth designs, and to tell you the truth, I didn’t really miss it. I mean, who am I kidding? It’s not like the folks at Starbucks bother decorating my froth before they put lids on my drinks, either…and hers were even tastier (and FREE!)

Me and a childhood bestie

Me and a childhood bestie

After such phenomenal home service we decided to chillax a bit, catch up, and enjoy the day. We took my sister’s dog for a walk, visited their local animal shelter, the Anti-Cruelty society. It was pet adoption day and I thanked my lucky stars that I live far away, because it helped prevent me from coming home with every puppy they had up for adoption. How cool is it, though, that they had Darth Vader and some Storm Troopers to help get all those adorable furry friends into new, loving homes? Yeah….there were a lot of folks doing just what my friend did. Selfies with the Star Wars villains. 🙂 Me? I stuck to the huggable, loveable Dalmatian. My sister’s pup got plenty of love and attention from everyone. In fact, their official professional photographer insisted on taking a pic of her dog with the white storm troopers. (While I’m thinking on it, please hold a good thought for him. He’s been having some eye issues that are going to need to be resolved with doggie surgery. We’re hoping they won’t have to take his eye.)

A couple of friends stopped to by to surprise me!

A couple of friends stopped to by to surprise me!

Fish and Chips with Cider

Fish and Chips with Cider

That afternoon, after our dog walking adventure we got ready for an early supper, then the Blake Shelton concert. We decided to head to Duke of Perth for the best fish and chips in town, and some cider to wash it down. What was really awesome was that because I’d checked in on my phone app, a couple of childhood friends stopped in to say hello and give hugs! Don’t you just love surprises like that? It made my day to know that they went out of their way just to stop and say hi.

Although Duke of Perth is quite well known for their whiskey, we wanted to be sober enough to enjoy seeing Dan + Shay, The Band Perry, Neal McCoy, and, of course, Blake….at the legendary Wrigley Field! Now, I’ve always enjoyed Neal McCoy’s music, but after catching his sense of fun and humor, I’ve decided I’d be perfectly okay with being in the center of a Neal and Blake sandwich. 😉 Next to Blake, he was my favorite part of the night.

When the time came to say goodbye to my sister and my favorite town, it was with a heavy heart. There’s something about my home town that uplifts me. I love that no matter how often I come back I discover some new gem either while still being filled with nostalgia. What do you love most about going back home? Or, if you never left, what places would you recommend to someone visiting your home town?

I’ll leave ya’ll with this awesome song… Tell me how many famous guitar players you can name. 😉

My Sappy Sentimental Side this Season

I admit it. I’m a total sap around the holidays. Remember those Folgers commercials where the son who lived far away would show up on Christmas morning and wake the family up to his surprise by brewing coffee? Yeah. I cried. How could I not? He made coffee!!! And he showed up for the best surprise to his family ever.

So maybe it’s the sap in me, or maybe it’s the storyline, but The Carpenters song Merry Christmas, Darling hits my softy button. First, it was my mom’s favorite Christmas song while I was growing up. Second, Karen Carpenter had a beautiful voice and died way too soon. Even the most beautiful person can battle with self image issues. Karen Carpenter, with her beauty, talent, fame and money still struggled, and she’s not alone.

One of the bravest, most wonderful friends I’ve come to know on here has her own very inspirational story of recovery and self acceptance. If you’ve never been to August’s page I encourage you to stop by. Between her candid discussions of her battle with anorexia and her Girl Boner posts, she’s someone I’ve become honored to be friends with.

Anyway, in honor of all the lovers and all the folks who may be struggling…here’s a beautiful song from a beautiful lady.

Chatting Coffee and Columbus Day

I woke up this morning thinking I wanted to share a little bit of Foamy the Squirrel’s philosophy of the world.  You see, anything you’ve ever thought and wanted to say but were either too tactful or too politically correct to say, Foamy’s been there, saying it for you.  So I wondered to myself, what video(s) should I choose for my first introduction….and decided to do what most blog writers do.  I considered the people I read…and what I’ve found interesting.  And whether it’s been Jenny Hansen talking about her favorite coffee mugs or  Terri Lee who got “Dancing Cheek to Cheek” stuck in my head or Good Morning Joe. who discussed the merits of tea versus coffee there is no question that coffee talk has been a ruling topic of conversation lately.

In honor of this…and to give us all a chance to laugh, I figured I’d kick this off with some of my favorite rants about coffee.  I dare you to not relate….

***WARNING-If profanity offends you, you probably don’t want to watch this***

I always wondered about those cup sizes… Next…ordering…

You know…I LOVE Starbucks.  In fact, I wait with bated breath for fall so that I can get my favorite pumpkin spice.  The truth, though, is that my cousin in Michigan never went into a Starbucks because she was intimidated and never knew what to order.  And I don’t think she’s the only one intimidated.

As much as I enjoy Starbucks, the stuff I like is frou frou and filled with whole mik and sugar, and it’s not cheap.  So I’ve been limiting myself.  Thankfully, my guy bought me a Keurig.  There are so may flavors available for that baby and there’s the little cup thingie that you can use to make coffee with any brand of coffee, even if your flavor of choice doesn’t come in K-cups.  Between the flavored creamers & coffees, you can pretty much create all sorts of interesting recipes.

Oddly, my husband thinks coffee is gross.  He prefers tea.  So does my mom.  Me?  The only time you’ll catch me drinking tea is if I’m sick or losing my voice.

What is your beverage addiction of choice?  Is it tea?  Coffee?  Soda?  Hot chocolate?  What are your favorite flavors?  What do you think of Foamy?

Hope you’re enjoying your day.  If you’re from the States, Happy Columbus Day!  (BTW, what historical facts do you remember about Columbus?  Can you name his 3 ships?  What country sent him?…Share your knowledge of all things Columbus!)