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Child Slavery & Chocolate – Why I ONLY Buy Fairtrade

Posted by on Feb 15, 2018 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

Along with writing, I’m known for my love of dark chocolate, hot tea, and healthy food. I’ve been grinding my own flour for over fifteen years, and before becoming an author, I had a blog on healthy eating and enjoyed sharing my lifestyle with others. However, living in the Deep South, I often get teased about my food choices–especially when I visit my family in small towns.

A few years ago I stumbled upon a video about child slavery and chocolate. That video led me to do more research and watch other videos, and in that moment, my life changed. I swore I would no longer support or buy non fair-trade chocolate, and I’ve lived by that rule ever since.

Although I don’t push my lifestyle on others, it gets noticed when I’m out shopping or eating with friends and family. If I don’t see the fair-trade mark or something written about ethically sourced, I won’t even consider it. It’s just not an option for me. It’s that important.

Unfortunately, slavery has always been around, and I believe it always will be. It’s not just in the chocolate industry, either. It’s a problem with food, clothing, electronics, and so much more. It’s everywhere!

I can’t stop slavery, but I don’t have to support it. I can also help to make others aware so that we can come together to fight it. If enough people demand ethical treatment by supporting fair-trade companies, things could slowly change in the right direction. In fact, it already is. There are people already fighting for that cause. We just need to support it.

There are SO many videos and articles on slavery in the chocolate industry, and this post took longer than I expected since I found myself searching for a specific video. I know most people don’t have hours to go through everything on the topic, so I wanted to give you a short video. I also wanted you to look into the eyes of actual survivors. It’s only a few minutes long, so please watch it.

When I think of the chocolate industry, I think of the children stolen from their families, driven nearly three hundred miles to a village where they don’t speak the same language, thrown into a shed with other children, and beaten if they don’t work from sunrise to sunset–never getting paid. That is the dark truth about the sweets we so often buy our own children. It’s not right, and it must stop.

As for the cost of fair-trade chocolate, and even finding it in small towns, it’s not that expensive or hard to find. My favorite choice is cheaper than most other brands, and I’ve found it in all the small towns I’ve visited. CVS even carries it in some small towns. Before I moved from Atlanta, I often found it BOGO at Krogers. It’s always on stock at my house. (Or my husband rushes out to get more–feed the beast!) The Endangered Species brand carries a large variety, and 10% of their profits goes to charity.

There’s also BarkThins. You can now find them at most gas stations. Although the almond and pretzel varieties are the ones you’ll most likely find, they actually have a lot of choices. I became addicted to their chocolate covered pumpkin seeds from Costco and had to limit buying it, because I would lose control of my daily portions. I just couldn’t stop with them.


If you live in a small town, start looking around. I’ve not found a place I can’t get fair-trade chocolate. You just have to look for it.

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Beta Readers, Get Ready for Unexpected Beginning!

Posted by on Feb 1, 2018 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Finally! Are you ready for Unexpected Beginning? The goal is to get it out to the beta readers this month, and then they’ll have two weeks to read it. After that, it’s off to the formatter before it’s sent to the distributors, and I should have it ready for pre-order next month.

Unexpected Legends, the fifth and final book in the Alissia Roswell Series, will be back on track for a spring of 2019 release. That one will be action packed, as Alissia has a LOT going on 🙂

I’ll also be adding to the Pinterest board for Unexpected Beginning, so you may want to check it out. For now, I’ll leave you with the theme song for this book. I’m dying to release the two theme songs for Unexpected Legends, but it’s just not time. The contrasts are too great, and you’d be confused. Alissia’s adventure is quite complex, and you should know by know that I love throwing surprises at my readers. It keeps you on your toes, and it’s just so fun!

I have yet to find one reader to guess the endings, and I greatly enjoy getting private Facebook messages from people after they read chapter two of Unexpected Peril. They actually set the book aside and contact me in disbelief. Surprise!!! 🙂

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One Sunny, Winter Day in the South!

Posted by on Jan 22, 2018 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Seventy degrees and sunny on a Sunday–oh, happy day! After weeks of cold weather, where I’ve been hibernating in my home, yesterday was a delightful day. I couldn’t talk my children into going for a hike, and my husband turned me down for what he called a much needed run. Frustrated with my family, I searched for local hiking trails in my new town and was surprised to find a National Seashore Park within walking distance from my home. With walking and bike trails, camping spots, picnic areas, and boat ramps, how could I have not known?

Since moving to this quaint, little town on the Gulf Coast, I’ve gone on many walks and bike rides along the beaches and downtown, yet I had never ventured in the direction of this park. Needless to say, I loved every bit of it! Complete with wildlife viewing areas (where I got to see turtles and an alligator sunbathing), nature surrounded me. My dog and I walked briskly for an hour and forty minutes, and we still didn’t see everything the park has to offer. I can’t wait to go back with a kayak.

When I’m out in nature, my creative juices always seem to flow. If you’ve read my Alissia Roswell Series, you’ll notice a wide variety of natural environs, and that’s because it’s a part of who I am. From the rainforests in Costa Rica to the swamps in South Georgia, I love being surrounded by nature. I’ve done many things in my life, yet I can’t recall most conversations or people’s names; however, I can clearly imagine snakes, alligators, sloths, monkeys, spiders, and other wildlife in great detail. Not only can I picture them, but I can recall smells and sounds as well. Those are the memories that stay with me, and those are the things I love to write about–although, I like to add some extra touches of creativity 🙂

Now the temperatures are dropping again, and rain is in the forecast. Yesterday was a rare gem in the winter season, and now it’s back to hibernating. Like most southerners, I don’t go outside on my own initiative if it’s cold. And by cold, I mean below 63 degrees. I’ve lived in the North and suffered cold winters, and I DID NOT enjoy them!

I’ll leave you with an old post I typed about a backpacking trip to Cumberland Island. My daughter even posted a video.

 

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2018, I’m Expecting Great Things!

Posted by on Jan 11, 2018 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

I consider the year 2016 one of horrible chaos, while 2017 brought many great changes. And now, 2018, I’m taking back my life! Goals are set, and I’m ready to get things done!

What does that mean for my readers? Well, I plan to get back to this blog, as it helps to keep me writing when I only have an hour at my desk. That helps to keep me from getting too distant from writing when life throws something at me. It’ll keep my writing juices flowing–even if I’m not typing about Alissia’s wild adventures.

I also plan to limit my multitasking. Like budgeting money, I need to have a plan when it comes to time. I’ve never been one to live by a schedule or do much planning, and although that’s worked in the past, it didn’t work out too well last year. Feeling burned out and exhausted, I let life slip by me. I’m not saying I got lazy. I mean, we downsized from our suburban house in Atlanta to a smaller home on the Gulf Coast, and I purged a lot of things and dealt with a lot of renovations. In the process, I didn’t have time to exercise or do much editing, and distractions consumed me.

The book signings are coming back! With all the chaos from the past two years, I haven’t done much marketing or book signings either. I’ve already scheduled some online marketing for this month, and I plan to get back into the groove of social media, along with going to many Mississippi festivals. Why focus on Mississippi? Well, when I moved from Georgia, I had to close out my business dealings there and open new accounts in Mississippi. While doing that, I made a few changes and added a few things to my list of sales, besides books.

Along with writing, I love loose leaf tea and essential oils, so they’ll now be on my book tables. I’m also adding them to my speaking engagements, which I haven’t done in a while either. I’m back to my passions, and I have goals!

I’m at the end of the editing phase of Unexpected Beginning, and it’s priority number one. My goal is to get it to the beta readers within two months–at the most. I know I promised a 2017 release, but we really didn’t plan to move until this year. It was a spontaneous thing, but in the end, it’s for the best. I’ll soon do a post on my back yard to share a bit more. I’m a nature lover, and when things are completed, I should have the perfect writing place. It even includes a massive oak tree!

I never do resolutions, and I don’t consider my goal setting as one either. I’m more of a lifestyle person. I don’t do diets or fads. I just try to make small permanent changes, and this one just happens to coincide with a new year. Although, I guess, in a way, I am hitting a reset button and starting anew.

Well, it’s time to get to work! Unfortunately, I’ve been sick for days, and now I’m behind on the house and have guests coming over tonight. Let the games begin!

 

 

 

 

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Oh, Happy Day! School is Back in Play!!!

Posted by on Aug 8, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Yes! Summer is officially over in the Holley house, and I’m loving it! If you’ve been following my social media, you’ll notice I haven’t been online much, and life has been full of chaos since Memorial Weekend, when we decided to sell our home near Atlanta and move to the Gulf Coast. With all the things that come with moving, along with family vacations and getting prepared to open a tea shop, I’m behind in every area of my life.

This morning, after my children left for their new schools, I let out a deep sigh of relief. Although I’m still surrounded by unpacked boxes, my walls aren’t fully painted, and the entire flooring in this home will soon be ripped out for replacement, I feel a small sense of normalcy now that we’ll be on a schedule again. I’m also back at my desk, where I truly love solitude, dark chocolate, and hot tea.

After months of traveling and eating out, I’m also hoping to get back into exercising. I’m definitely out of the habit, and my body is feeling and showing it! (The worst thing about being short–and getting older–is how easy it is to gain weight. During a biology experiment in college, I found out I was supposed to eat the least amount of calories in a day than everyone else in the room. I’ll admit that in that moment, I envied the tall guys in the room. They needed more than double my calories and could eat an entire pizza without any guilt. Just think of all the dark chocolate I could eat in a day if I were them!)

In the midst of all this chaos, it’s time I get back to work. While driving to my new home, I listened to the playlist for the Alissia Roswell Series, and all the scenes ran through my mind. I even have songs for the last book, and the scenes are clear to me. They’re intense!

If you want to hear the playlist for the first three novels, you can find the songs on each book’s Pinterest board. Until then, sign up for my newsletter to get notified with the latest on the Unexpected Beginning. I know I’m extremely late, but I’ll soon be sending it out to beta readers for review. If you want to be on that list, be sure to sign up for that as well.

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A Tea Lover’s Review of Adagio Teas

Posted by on Jul 15, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Someone from Adagio reached out to me a few months ago, asking if I would like to review some of their teas. Well, how could I say no to that? Of course! I’m all about tea and writing–so much that I’ll soon be selling tea alongside my career as an author. It’s something I planned to do last year, but if you have kept up with my blog, you know I had a lot of family emergencies in the spring of last year, turning my world upside down and causing major delays with the release of Unexpected Beginning.

Since receiving Adagio’s teas, I attended the World Tea Expo, where I immersed myself in the world of tea for four days. It was bliss! Pure bliss! And I tell you this, so you’ll understand that when I first received Adagio’s teas, I had not tried some of the flavors. They were new to me, because I was either scared of those flavors after reading reviews or I had already had bad experiences with them. (I’ve tasted some bad teas!)

Now let’s get to the review. Look at all the goodies I received:

I was given a $30 credit to buy from a short list of teas they specifically wanted reviewed, and I honestly cringed at the teas on the list. As stated above, I was either scared of trying the flavors or already had bad experiences with them. However, after reading some of the reviews on their site, I chose a variety of sample-sized packages so that I could try many flavors. I even purchased some jade oolong and dragon well. Why? Because $30 is just not enough when it comes to my tea addiction! Also, my last order was from a Japanese supplier, and I was low on teas from other origins.

I’ll start with the genmai cha. It’s one I had always wanted to try but avoided when spending my own money. The reviews always scared me. I mean, who wants to taste burned popcorn? Does that even sound appealing? So I steeped it exactly as directed on the packaging, and sure enough, it smelled like burned popcorn. I took a sip expecting the worst but was greatly surprised by the unique flavor. Yes, there is a resemblance to burned popcorn, but it’s truly not a bad thing. In fact, I found myself craving more of the tea two hours later, and I steeped the leaves again. Now I know why it’s a regular, daily drink for many. Days later, I chose it over my other teas. Genmai cha’s flavor lingers on your tongue, and hours later, you’ll want it again. It’s now something I plan to keep stocked.

While at the expo, I sampled more genmai cha, and I found them comparable with Adagio’s. However, I brought a sample home from one supplier, and I found it much weaker than Adagio’s. As with all teas, not all genmai cha are the same. Make sure you get it fresh. Don’t buy weak genmai cha!

Because I only chose a sample of it, I ran out quickly and moved on to the yerba mate, which is an herbal drink. Seeing the many pictures of loose pieces floating around a gourd with a special straw always scared me away from buying it. I can’t stand coffee or anything thick and bitter, and that’s the flavor I associated with it.

Well, not anymore! It’s mild–no astringent bitterness–and it’s pleasant. After tasting others at the expo, I know that Adagio’s tastes fresh, and I can recommend it.

Now we move on to the rooibos samples. I enjoyed apple cinnamon rooibos years ago when I started drinking hot tea. It’s another herbal, and suppliers mix it in a variety of ways for summer or winter drinks. I often ended my winter evenings with a rooibos. My children even loved them. Then I made the mistake of buying three cute, little tins in a variety of rooibos flavors from a gift shop one day. (I think now would be a good time to warn you to never, I mean NEVER EVER, buy your teas from any place other than tea shops. I don’t care how cute the tins are! Unless that gift shop has a relationship with a reputable tea company, don’t buy the tea!)

After that experience, I stopped buying rooibos. It wasn’t just those three tins that turned me away from the herbal drink, it was other brand names as well. A lot of them tasted like pure chemical additives. They just weren’t natural at all! And that’s why I dreaded tasting Adagio’s rooibos. They have many blends to choose from, and after reading some reviews, I chose:  rooibos cinnamon apple, green rooibos blueberry, green rooibos bonita, green rooibos key west, and green rooibos. They even threw in a sample of rooibos vanilla chai. Can you spot the three rooibos blends with the genmai cha and jade oolong?

I had never tried green rooibos, so I selected quite a few of those. The samples arrived in a cute, little box (great for a gift), and I decided to try the cinnamon apple, since I had already tasted that flavor more than once.

Well, what a surprise! It tasted nothing like the last rooibos I tried. No chemical taste whatsoever. I’ve tasted each of the samples, and it’s the same with all of them. Smooth and natural, just the way I like them! My children even love the flavors, and because rooibos is caffeine free, they can drink them.

I have a box of rooibos blends I’m trying from another supplier at the moment, and they match up to Adagio’s, which leads me to believe they’re high quality and trying to keep it natural. However, many companies aren’t doing that. Beware of a rooibos blend that tastes like chemicals. It’s just wrong!

As for my purchases, the dragonwell and jade oolong both tasted as I expected. I kept it safe and ordered mild teas 🙂

So what do I think about Adagio? I think they’re keeping things natural, and I can recommend their blends, herbals, and pures. They put steeping instruction on all their packaging, which is greatly appreciated by many. Although they don’t specifically say organic and fairtrade (which is very important to me), they have something called Roots. They know where their teas come from, and they even give you cute little postcards to mail to the farmers thanking them for their tea. They’re doing good things 🙂

Although new to their teas, I purchased their infuser from Amazon a while back, and it’s held up great to daily use. I can honestly recommend Adagio for their teas, along with their teaware.

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