January 21, 2017

Guest Post: 12 Ideas to Help Harness the Power and Magic of Hugs

Laura Duksta, author of I'LL HUG YOU MORE, has a special message to share for National Hug Day.

Where are My Huggers At? 12 Ideas to Help Harness the Power and Magic of HUGS 

1. HUGS... wondering what you can do to foster healthy self-esteem in your children, HUG THEM, it creates a sense of connection and belonging which they’ll take with them into the classroom and out into the world.

2. HUGS allow us to love and to be loved, and to feel connected, some say these are the reasons for our existence.

3. HUGS can shift our energy. An upset child can often be comforted by taking a few deep breaths, meeting them at their height and offering a hug until their upset subsides. This works the other way too, a child often senses when you’re upset, let them come in and give you a hug. Hugs can remind us what’s important and help us regain perspective.

I'll Hug You More 4. HUGS can express empathy, by saying “I’m with you,” “I understand what you’re going through,” “We’re in this together,” “You matter,” “I’m here for you.”

5. HUGS heal. Researchers have only scratched the surface in studying the heart’s electromagnetic waves. When we connect in a heart to heart hug there’s a chance were harnessing the most powerful ‘medicine’ of all.

6. HUGS can help put a smile on our face as well as our heart. As a friend shared, “Hugs make me smile on the inside and out.”

7. HUGS help generate oxytocin which reduces stress producing hormones. Hugs also release dopamine which give us a feel good feeling and helps to motivate us.

8. HUGS ... a healthy dose, says family therapist Virginia Satir, “We need four hugs a day for survival, eight hugs a day for maintenance, and twelve hugs a day for growth.”

9. HUGS are a one powerful way to experience the healing and nurturing power of touch, but there are others, consider a mani/pedi or a massage. Not quite ready for human touch, test out the power and magic found in hugging a tree!

10. HUGS are perfect by design. We live in a universe of duality where we have support and challenge, happiness and sadness, health and sickness, winning and losing, though experiencing these things at different times often knocks us off balance. A HUG is the perfect gift where we share the power of giving and receiving simultaneously.

11. HUGS connect us soul to soul. They’re a universal language we all can understand.

12. HUGS can say “Hello” and “Good-Bye,” “I’ll Miss You,” “Thank You,” “I’m Sorry,” and more, and underneath it all every hug says “I love you.”

13. HUGS BONUS .... your biggest benefits will come from 20 second HUGS, so extend your heart and your arms, take your time and make it count!

January 11, 2017

Review: Fudge and Jury

Fudge and Jury The fifth Bakeshop Mystery
By Ellie Alexander
Available now from St. Martin's
Review copy

Ashland, Oregon is a small town that's built up a Shakespearean tourist industry, as well as an annual chocolate festival. As the co-owner of Torte, Ashland's resident bakeshop, Jules is cooking on all burners. She's considering expanding the business, and using the festival as a chance to renovate her current storefront. She's also got a couple of guys vying for her attention, but she's not ready to move on from her estranged husband.

When Evan Rowe, the infamously mean owner of Confections Couture, dies of an allergic reaction during the festival, everyone suspects foul play. The desserts he was served were supposedly nut free. Jules would be interested in the case just to clear her own name, but her friend Lance pushes her to become even more involved in probing for answers. As is the case in many mysteries where the victim is a real jerk, there's a plurality of suspects.

I haven't read the previous four Bakeshop Mysteries, but I was able to dive right into this tale. There is some exposition at the beginning about Jules' business and husband which helped me understand the basics of the setting, although it made me think Jules' husband would actually show up in the story. The series has a fairly standard cozy mystery set up, which made stepping into the series in the middle still feel familiar.

What I found stood out about FUDGE & JURY is the importance of Jules' career. Her professional development often overtook the murder mystery as the most important part of the book. I don't think that's a bad thing, since there's a new murder per book but investment in Jules is what will keep readers coming back. I know I'm thinking about checking out the previous four books from the library. I find that most cozy mysteries are centered around hobbies, or people starting new careers, so it was unusual to read one about a woman who is excelling in her field and finding increasing success.

I thought the cast was likeable. The array of romantic options seemed like a bit much, although Ellie Alexander sold the scene where Jules turns one of her suitors down. I felt for the guy and appreciated how maturely Jules handled the situation, by making her feelings clear but being compassionate. That's always a rough situation.

The details of the various confections are lush and mouth-watering. I know I wanted some chocolate pasta of my own! (And I greatly enjoyed Jules' defense of cocoa-powder based brownies. This Smitten Kitchen recipe proves they don't have to be grainy.) The solution to the mystery surprised me, and will certainly make me more careful about serving one of my favorite sauces to guests. The denouement happened quickly, since FUDGE & JURY does focus on so much more than the mystery, but I found the clever solution satisfying.

I have one copy to give away. US only, 13 and up.

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