By special guest blogger, author, Carolyn Hughey

I’m a fellow author with Barb, who writes contemporary romance. My first release, Cupid’s Web, is about a young Italian woman who has no desire to be barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen, slaving away at a stove, much to her Mama’s disappointment.

Unlike my character, I’m a former professional chef. Although cooking is my forte, devoting time to my writing has taken a front row seat to the stove. That said, there are so many wonderful tools out there which provide fast and easy ways to juggle a job, and family while still producing a yummy meal in less than twenty minutes preparation time.

I’ve recently rediscovered my crock-pot, the all-in-one meal that turns out to be a winner every time I use it. Here’s one of my favorite recipes.


1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
2 tbls canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 bag of small carrots
1 small bag of new potatoes, sliced in half
32 oz beef broth poured over top of roast

Place the first five ingredients into a large freezer bag. Seal the bag and shake to combine the spices. Add a 4 lb bottom round roast to the bag, seal, and shake until you’ve coated all sides of the roast. Set aside.

Add 2 tbls of oil into a large skillet, or heavy pot, and heat on medium high heat. Remove the roast from the bag, shaking to remove any excess flour, and place it into the heated skillet and sear all sides to seal in the flavorful juices, until golden. Save the leftover flour for thickening the gravy when the roast is done.

Prepare the onions, carrots, and potatoes, and place into the crock-pot in the same sequence. Place seared roast over top, add the beef broth, cover and set the dial on low for 12 hours, or high, for six hours.

When the roast is done, remove the meat and vegetables onto a serving platter, slice, and serve.

For more recipes, visit my website at


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Family films always seem to be hit and miss with my bunch and we often wind up in separate theatres or separate rooms when it’s movie viewing time. A PLUMM SUMMER (William Baldwin, Henry Winkler, Jeff Daniels, Ben Trotter) changed that dynamic instantly. Granted, I had to twist an arm or two (in particularly, my hubby’s...) to get everyone to agree to see it, but ten minutes into the film, I knew it was a hit with everyone.

Set in 1968, A PLUMM SUMMER captures spirit of rural America, drawing the audience in to the lives of two boys (one pre-K, the other a teen) who are stuck in the middle of family crisis and the solving of a local mystery.

Sounds simple, right? It’s not. The depth of character development and plot is impressive and the acting superb, making this a must-see movie. It’s thought provoking, uplifting, and will bring a smile to all hearts, young and old.

A highly recommended, enjoyable experience!

If you’re looking for a film to see this weekend, you’ll find A PLUMM SUMMER playing at:

Minnesota Theaters featuring A Plumm Summer April 25, 26, and 27 and May 2, 3 and 4

AMC Eden Prairie 18
4000 Flying Cloud Drive Ste 2400 Eden Prairie, MN 55344

Lakeville 18
Country Road 70 & 35W Lakeville, MN 55044

Eagan 16
2055 Cliff Road Eagan, MN 55122

Showplace 16
10051 Woodcrest Drive Coon Rapids, MN 55448

Showplace 16
5567 Bishop Avenue Inver Grove Hts., MN 55076

Oakdale 10
1188 Helmo Avenue North Oakdale, MN 55128

Alabama Theaters Featuring A Plumm Summer April 25, 26, and 27 and May 2, 3 and 4

Wynnsong 12
500 Commons Drive Birmingham, AL 35209

Summit 16
321 Summit Blvd. Birmingham, AL 35243

Trussville Cinema 16
5895 Trussville Crossings Parkway Trussville, AL 351723

California Theaters Featuring A Plumm Summer April 25, 26, and 27 and May 2, 3 and 4

Block 30 @ Orange
20 City Boulevard West Orange, CA 92868

Century 20 - Bella Terra
7777 Edinger Avenue Huntington Beach, CA 92647

Cinemark 22
2600 West Avenue I Lancaster, CA 93534

Cinemark at the Pike
99 South Pine Ave Long Beach, CA 9080

Century Stadium 25 Theatre – Orange
1701 West Katella Orange, CA 92668

Century Downtown 10
555 East Main Street Ventura, CA 93001

Cinema Star Ultraplex 18 at Mission Grove
121 E. Allesandro Riverside, CA 92508

Cinema City 12
5635 E La Palma Anaheim, CA 92807

Chino Hills 18
3070 Chino Avenue Chino Hills, CA 91709

Moreno Valley 16
22500 Towngate Circle Moreno Valley, CA 92553

Buena Park 18
8290 La Palma Avenue Buena Park, CA 90620

Krikorian Village Walk 15
8540 Whittier Blvd. Pico Rivera, CA 90660

Winnetka All Stadium 20
9201Winnetka Ave. Chatsworth, CA 91311

Movie Experience @ California Oaks
41090 California Oaks Road Murrieta, CA 92562

Mary Pickford 14
850 Civic Center East #36 Cathedral City, CA 96620

Plaza Stadium 14
255 West Fifth St. Oxnard, CA 93030

Mann Agoura Hills 8
29045 Agoura Road Agoura Hills, CA 91301

Mann Glendale Exchange 10
128 N. Maryland Ave. Glendale, CA 91206

Beverly Center
8522 Beverly Blvd. Suite #835 Los Angeles, CA 90048

Mann Criterion 6 Theatres
1313 3rd St. Prominade Santa Monica, CA 90401

East Hills Mall 10
3100 Mall View Rd. Bakersfield, CA 93306

Burbank 16
125 Palm Avenue Burbank, CA 91502

Covina 30
1414 North Azusa Ave Covina, CA 91723

AMC Del Amo 18
3525 W. Carson St. space 73 Torrance, CA 90503

Rolling Hills 20
2591 Airport Drive Torrance, CA 90505

Irvine Spectrum 21 Megaplex Cinemas
65 Fortune Drive Irvine, CA 92618

Foothill Towne Center 22
26602 Towne Center Drive Foothill Ranch, CA 92610

If your city/state isn’t listed, stay tuned!


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EVENT: Free Comic Book Day is Saturday May 3rd, 2008
Free Comic Book Day is a single day when participating comic book shops across North America and around the world give away comic books absolutely free* to anyone who comes into their stores.
TOPIC OF THE DAY ~ MOCKINGBIRD (Album by Allison Moorer)

Allison Moorer is no stranger to the country scene, but MOCKINGBIRD is the first album I've picked up of hers. Mainly, I admit, for the cover songs (many of which I enjoyed the originals.) This is one impulse purchase I'm glad I made!

The tracks on this album are more than country - displaying a wide range of vocals and more than a little soul. Allison's voice is soothing, sultry, and mesmerizing... and now a new fav of mine.

"Mockingbird" (Allison's original) and "Both Sides Now" (a cover remake) are my choice selections, but the album in it's entirity makes for a great listen.

"Ring of Fire" (a cover remake) takes a little getting used to if you are a Johnny Cash/June Carter fan (as I am)but with the powerful and refreshing vocals Allison lends to the song, you'll easily be won over.

I have Allison's back albums on order and I'm looking forward to her next release. This is country as it should be!



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(from author, J L Wilson)

I often attend several conferences a year, both to promote my published books and to learn more about writing, publishing, and promotion.

I'm kicking off my conference 'season' this week with the RT Reader's Conference, held in Pittsburgh this year. I've never been to RT and it promises to be fascinating -- lots of parties, workshops, contests, etc. I'll get a chance to hang out with some real pros and see how they handle this whole publishing thing. Plus I used to live in Pittsburgh, and have already lined up lunches and dinners with friends and family -- a win-win thing, right?

One of the things I've always done when I've traveled is to pack my own food and booze. I like to have a nice relaxing drink at night in my room, along with a bit of 'nosh' -- some crackers or some chips. And I hate to go down to a crowded bar, pay $$$$ for a drink, and have to sit there in my 'conference' clothes, when all I want to do is to be lounging on the bed, sipping my cocktail of choice.

One of the staples of my conference nosh repetoire is Oyster Cracker Nosh. I've been making this since Hidden Valley Ranch came into being. I'll be adding this recipe to my recipe collection at The book in which it's featured, Autographs, Abductions and A-List Authors (releasing in June), takes place at a writing conference, and the heroine and her friends help solve the mystery (while munching on their snacks, of course).

Give it a try -- I think you'll like it!

J L Wilson


1 lb. bag oyster crackers
1 cup oil (canola) 1 package Hidden Valley Ranch mix (dry)Dill weed

Note: if using 12 oz. bag of Oyster crackers, use ¾ cup oil

Mix oyster crackers and oil in a large mixing bowl. Stir well, covering all the crackers and making sure they are evenly coated.

Add the package of Hidden Valley Ranch mix. Stir well. Add dill weed to taste (also other seasonings as you desire: cayenne, or chili powder, or seasoned salt, but go light on the salt because the mix is a bit salty).

Cover and let stand overnight, stirring or shaking the bowl occasionally. Stores well in plastic containers. Lasts forever (at least as long as a writing conference!)


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The question we are asked most often is "How do I earn money on the Internet?"

While there are numerous opportunities, these are our favorite, easiest ways to pick up some extra cash:


A popular way to make money on the Internet is to participate in online surveys. There's a multitude of companies out there who offer incentives from entries into contests to amazon gift certs. For the purposes of this note... we're only interested the money, honey!

Also (I can't stress this enough) never pay a website or company for the chance to participate in a survey! The money should flow towards your pocket, not away from it.

Here's the best of the best out there:

SURVEY SAVVY Pays cash for completing short surveys. They pay out by check and are very prompt.

MY SURVEY Pays points for completing short surveys, but your accumulated points can be turned in for cash payments. They pay out by check and are very prompt.

OPINION OUTPOST Pays cash for completing short surveys. They pay out by check and are very prompt.

AMERICAN CONSUMER OPINION Pays cash for short surveys and product testing. They pay out by check and are very prompt.

If you have a child between the ages of 6 to 19 KIDZEYES is a great survey company where your children will have the chance to earn points (to trade in for cash) and prizes each month.

PSB SURVEYS Pays cash for short surveys. They don't offer as many opportunities as the others, but they pay promptly via PayPal when they do.

Non-Cash Paying Survey Sites, We Still Recommend:

BZZ AGENT Bzz Agent is a product testing company that asks in return for you to "bzz" about the products. You earn points for your "bzz" activities which can then be traded in for prizes. So, no cash here, but some great freebies and the chance to be "in the know" with new products.

GREENFIELD Greenfield has a lot of survey offerings that give you an entry into their monthly contests, but from time to time, they offer cash surveys too- so it's worth checking into.

KEYNOTE Conducts surveys mainly on websites and website usuage. Pays promptly in Amazon dollars (gift certificates to

WR INSIDERS Another survey website for children and teens. Offers points (that build up quickly) to be exchanged for prizes or gift certificates. Please use referral code P09137051236 when registering (it's my daughter's code.)

Additional or Elusive Sites:

Another mentionable is PINECONE, but they only have open calls on occasion- so watch their website! They pay cash for surveys and product testing.


If you ever go to the grocery store, shop for electronics, eat at a fast food chain or popular restaurant and feel that you know the difference between poor and excellent customer service... then Mystery Shopping might be a great way for you to earn some extra cash.

The very first and most important rule of thumb you need to know: Quality Mystery Shopping Companies do not charge you to be a Mystery Shopper!

This is the easiest way to spot a scam. If a company wants your money in order to get assignments (meaning you are going to be employed by them) run, run, run as far away from their website as possible!!

You'll find a long list of legit Mystery Shopping Companies here : Mystery Shopping List

Mystery Shopping won't make you rich, but you could pull in a decent part-time income if you work for several companies, plus, if you take on restaurant gigs, you'll get plenty of free meals!


There are a ton of pay to click website out there with new ones cropping up everyday. I did my best to weed through them and pick out the cream of the crop, with the best reputations.

MYPOINTS Probably the most well known and biggest of the pay to click websites, MYPOINTS offers points for completing offers, reading emails, completing surveys, shopping, and other activities. The points accumulate quickly (depending upon your habits) and can be redeemed for Gift Certificates (and occasionally other offers.)

MORATRAFFIC Pays out cash and points for just about everything you can think of!: Completing offers, chatting, reading emails, surveys, clicks, referrals, playing games, and more.

In addition they have an excellent payout level minimum of $5 (this is harder to find and the mark of a company interested in its users- most of the click to pay have a threshold of $25 and upwards before you will receive a payment.) Points can be redeemed for prizes.

CASH CRATE Another quality program with a great rep and an excellent payout level of $10. They pay for completion of offers, surveys, shopping, and more! They also have point offers that can be redeemed for prizes in the prize shop.

SEND EARNINGS Offers cash for a wide variety of things including reading emails, surveys, playing games, shopping, completing offers, and much more. They have a higher payout threshhold of a $30 minimum, but they made our list because they offer a $5 signup bonus and the offers all pay very well, so the $30 payout is not hard to obtain. Plus they have an excellent reputation amongst users.

And of course, GATHER which offers points for posting articles, pictures, and chatting with other members which can be traded in for gift certificates and other prizes.


Do you enjoy helping others? Do you have a gift for gab? Do you have pockets of quiet time available to talk on the phone? Then, you may want to consider employment with a call center service.

This growing field of opportunity for the at-home worker typically involves answering in-coming calls ranging from taking customer product orders to coordinating maintenance repair services. Many companies will allow you to work as little as fifteen minutes a day to full-time hours each week.

You'll find a complete list of legit companies along with pay information for this job here: WORK AT HOME JOB FACTS: CALL CENTER REPRESENTATIVES


These opportunities may not fit "neatly" in the other categories listed, but they are ones you should check out, if they suit your interests.

CAFEPRESS If you own a website, blog, have a great idea for a t-shirt, or would like to promote your graphic designs or art, Cafe Press might be the place for you.

Your profit can vary from a few dollars to full time wage depending on your pricing and the popularity of your products. (They are also a good site to consider using for school fund-raisers or family reunions!)

If you'd like to get an idea of products and how you might tie in to your website, we own a shop called The Write Shop which offers a few unique writers' gifts. It was created to give readers of The Frugal Writer a place to find fun items suitable for gift giving. (All prices were kept low to accomodate starving artists, so the profits are on the low end too, but this particular shop wasn't set up to be a money-generator. In any case, it will give you a good idea of how a basic shop operates. )

ASSOCIATED CONTENT Do you like to write? Do you know how to construct a good article? Or do you think you'd be good at reviewing travel locations, products, or sharing how-to information? Associated Content might be a very rewarding place for you to work on line, then. AC pays for quality content/articles (starting pay average of $5 article) and offers a continued performance bonus.

Check out these articles for examples of content (and for some interesting info too!)
Use Your Math Skills to Write a Book In A Year
Are Internet Freebies Taking Over Your Home?
Articles from A to Z (reviews/how-to/frugal living/etc.)

If you have websites or ideas to add, please send them to me and I'll feature them in the next special compilation. The more we share, the better opportunities for everyone!
SPECIAL TOPIC: Creating Wilde & Woolly Bears as a Keepsake
by Terry Spear

For twenty years, I've been creating Wilde & Woolly Bears, personalized teddy bears that have won awards including Best of Show, Best Dressed, and Most Unique Bears.

They've found homes all over the world as far away as Australia, China, Russia, and Switzerland. What got me started?

First, I took home economics in junior high school. Neither my mother nor grandmother sewed, so I was the very first one in the family to learn. For years, I did needlework, cross-stitched and embroidered so many pillowcases, pictures, wall hangings, rug hookings, quilts, that I needed another outlet. My folks had begun a business where they created doll carriages for doll collectors. But they didn't want to invest in dolls to display with the carriages. So knowing I'd been making cloth bunnies and dolls, they asked if I could create an old-fashioned teddy bear. At the time, there were no patterns for them.

I designed my first, and sold out at the Dallas Trade Center, began winning awards at Doll and Teddy Bear Shows, and got recognition with features in magazines including the Texas Monthly, Texas Co-Op Monthly, The MacNeill Galley, and Teddy Bear Review and newspapers. Plus the bears were in a movie called The International Teddy Bear Connection by Spectral Vision Films.

So what started out as just a fun way to create using some skills I'd honed over the years, became a business. Who would have ever thought a home economics course would have brought me fame and fortune? Not really there, but it's been a lot of fun. And because I embroidered and cross stitched, I began to personalize bears paws for special occasions. I'm also big into genealogy, and so the Celtic Clan bears were born because of my own Scottish and Irish roots.

And always needing to create something new, I began making bears for author’s books based on their covers or on a character in the book. I still need to come up with a bear in wolf suit for my own book, the Heart of the Wolf!!


For Cold Nights and Hot Dates--Mouth Watering Beef Stroganoff
by Terry Spear

4 oz fresh mushrooms
1 large onion
1 1/2 pounds beef round steak
(I use sirloin steak because it's so tender)
1 c water
1 tablespoon instant beef bouillion granules
1 tsp dry mustard
1/8 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 c water
1 c sour cream

Cut up onion, steak, and mushrooms. Add to 1 c water in large frying pan. Add beef bouillion granules (can subsititute 2 beef bouillion cubes) and the rest of the seasonings. Cook until meat, onions and mushrooms are tender.

Mix cornstarch with 1/4 cup water and once it's a liquid paste, add to the straganoff mix. Cook over low until the sauce begins to thicken, then add sour cream. Once the sour cream is heated, erve over hot wide, curly noodles.

For a more healthy diet, use whole grain noodles. Also, a 1/4 cup of red wine can be added for a little different taste.

The best thing is it's quick, a great meal all in one, and leftovers are as delicious as the original meal! And my heroine actually serves this meal to her hero in Betrayal of the Wolf, sequel to Heart of the Wolf! "Giving new meaning to the term alpha male."

Makes 4 (3/4 cup) servings


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This book came at a primo time as spring is beckoning and it's a great time to purge and air out the house. In the very first chapter, I found oodles of ideas and had to get started right away... so our local thrift shop will be pleased tomorrow :) and my hubby will be too, as it's now possible to easily find things in our bedroom closet and dressers, too. :)

Two exciting things happened when I followed some of the suggestions in SHOP YOUR CLOSET:

1) I looked at the clothes I own in a much different way. Instead of holding onto items for "someday," I looked at what works "today."

2) I can find everything in seconds and put together an outfit on the run, which, as a mom of three, this is great! Maybe you can already do this, but I always had a struggle putting together outfits, now it's simple.

Best of all... everything I did this weekend was free. I simply repurposed what I own.

It also gave me a chance to see what my needs are. I'm in great need of a new bathing suit and a couple pairs of shorts to get through the summer. Hopefully, I might gain a few dollars to pay for them as II held a few items for a yardsale and a couple for Ebay, too - using the helpful advice in the book.

I have a lot more to learn- and there's even a chapter devoted to taking what you learn and applying it all over the house. I can already share that vision as I’ve started tackling my pantry already :)

Do yourself a favor- Shop your closet this week, you'll be super glad you did!


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