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LAUGHING AT MY LIFELINES--if you laugh...you'll live...

LAUGHING AT MY LIFELINES--if you laugh...you'll live...

by Virginia Campbell

I recently quietly celebrated my fifty-fourth birthday. 54! Me! What happened to that awkward fourteen-year old...the naive and still hopeful twenty-four year old...in other words, what happened? Well, life happened, for better or worse, and that's the way it's supposed to be. It's OK, really. I still feel like a kid in a candy store, looking at the wonders of life with big eyes and savoring a taste for sweets and treats. I am still an "inappropriate laugher", a characteristic passed on to me by my mother. I love to entertain people, make them laugh, and lighten their life load, even if it's just for a little while. My philosophy of life is simple: "If you laugh, you'll live". I know this for a fact--it's the reason I'm still around.

Aging has not lessened my interest in romance. My body may be changing, but I still have the heart and soul of a romance lover! Even though parts of me are officially dead, I feel more alive than ever! I have always been a great reader, from childhood on, and I now crave books the way that I crave coffee and chocolate. I also enjoy and appreciate my books with the same fervor others have for collecting art, being a connoisseur of fine wines and exotic foods, and keeping up with the latest trends in fashion, entertainment, and electronics. For me, it's all about the books!

Romance novels offer the hope that true love is attainable, and “Happily Ever After” can be ours. They also provide an escape from everyday life. Whether it’s “heart with heat” or “heat with heart”, we can view the romantic entanglements and sensual experiences of the characters and imagine ourselves in their place. Some “romance stories” go much further. They present a more realistic look at characters with physical and emotional problems, financial difficulties, abuse situations, unplanned pregnancies and so much more. Sometimes, I want to read about life scenarios which are similar to my own. Other times, I want to be completely involved by characters and life stories far outside my everyday world. No matter what I’m reading, I look for well-developed, involving characters and a detailed, interesting story line. You can find all of these things by reading romance novels. Whether you search for the familiar or the exotic, chaste love or deep sensuality, you will find it all in “romance novels”. I like to alternate between new releases and older reads. While the new and the old can be vastly different in content, one thing is certain–what’s good is good, and even what’s not good can still have some shining moments. We are so lucky to live in this world today with an amazing collective treasure trove of great reads available from so many different sources!

For me, reading is a pure pleasure. I am reading a lot of different genres now, and I will follow a favorite author from one genre to another. These past few years, I have been stepping outside my fiction box on a regular basis, and it’s been a blast. I usually follow my basic instincts, but I do take into account word-of-mouth, book blogs, review sites and author and publisher sites. I think that curiosity and change and new experiences are intrinsic to an author’s continued enthusiasm for their work. If an author lost their “joie de vivre”–”joy of life/living”–then their work would suffer. Thankfully, my favorite authors (both old and new) have not lost their enthusiasm for life and love. Neither have I : ) I am no longer a stuffy reader--I am "unstuffed". My corset laces are loosened, and now I can breathe. I have been pleasantly surprised and have found some new reading trails by following the leads of my favorite writers!

Are you a "free reader"? Do you read a wide variety of genres, taking a chance here and there on an exotic story line, offbeat characters, and relationships that are outside the norm? Why do you read or write romance? Do you like surprises in story lines that take you in an unexpected direction, or do you savor the familiar? Are you an historical romance devotee, or is contemporary romantic suspense the genre that keeps you up at night turning the pages? Do you have a passion for powerful paranormal romance? While you are pondering your answers to those questions, take a look at these sweet and simple recipes that are just perfect for readers and treat lovers alike!

 

Peanut Butter & Banana S'mores

graham cracker squares
peanut butter (even better with honey peanut butter)
sliced bananas
toasted marshmallows

Spread one graham cracker square with peanut butter and top with banana slices. Add a toasted marshmallow or two. Top with another graham cracker square. Squish! Enjoy : ) Repeat!

 

Quick Coconut-Almond Macaroons

 2 packages (7 ounces each) flaked coconut
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix coconut, sweetened condensed milk and almond extract in large bowl. Drop teaspoonfuls of mixture onto greased baking sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Immediately remove from baking sheets to wire racks; cool completely.
 

Butterscotch-Cashew Haystacks

 
1 (12 oz.) pkg. peanut butter chips
1 (12 oz.) pkg. butterscotch chips
1 lg. can chow mein noodles
1 c. salted cashew halves

Melt 1 package peanut butter chips and 1 package butterscotch chips together in top of double boiler (can also be done in a microwave). Stir well and remove from heat. Add chow mein noodles and cashews. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a buttered cookie sheet or waxed paper. Let cool until set.

 

Ritzy Little Cheesecake Bites

golden round snack crackers
your favorite flavor all-fruit, no-sugar-added, preserves
soft-spread, low-fat (Neufatchel) cream cheese

Spread one cracker with fruit preserves. Spread second cracker with cream cheese. Press the two crackers together for a bite-sized cheesecake "crackerwich".

 

Chocolate Cream Cheese Mints

 
1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons real butter, softened
3 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons baking cocoa
1 teaspoon peppermint extract

In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, butter,confectioner's sugar, and cocoa. Mix in peppermint extract. Roll mixture into small balls, and place on waxed paper. Flatten with a fork dipped in confectioners' sugar. Let dry for about 2 hours on waxed paper, then freeze or refrigerate.

 

Truffles in a Trifle

3 cups (18 ounce bag) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 - 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Optional Coatings: Colored sprinkles or chocolate jimmies
Cocoa powder
Powdered sugar
Lightly toasted nuts (pecans, hazelnuts, walnuts, etc.), finely chopped
Flaked coconut

Melt chips with sweetened condensed milk (either top of double boiler or 30-second intervals in microwave). Remove from heat, stir in vanilla. Pour into a bowl, cover and chill until firm. About 2 to 3 hours. Shape into 1-inch balls, roll in coating. Store in refrigerator.

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