Welcome to my Author Blog

Welcome to my author blog, Friend. I am so pleased you found me.

I’ve been hanging out here for several years with an amazing group of followers. It is because of them that my blog is going strong, and I want to take this opportunity to say, “Thank You!”

The overall purpose of my blog is to familiarize you with my writing. I enjoy creating novels as well as interesting and informative blog posts. In between all the writing, I am currently seeking representation for my manuscript.

Following me is quite easy. Just click the +Follow button hovering in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen or take advantage of the sign-up directly on the Home page. In addition to my blog, there are various ways for us to become better acquainted. I can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

I sincerely hope you’ll join us. I look forward to getting to know you better.

HL Gibson, Author

Tuesday Tea – Sticky Rice Puer

I’m so excited to share today’s Tuesday Tea with you because 1.) it has a delicious, complex flavor profile, and 2.) it’s perfect for Valentine’s Day.

Whether you’re spending the holiday with your honey or rockin’ the day solo, do yourself a favor and splurge a titch on the gift that is Ohio Tea Co.’s Sticky Rice Puer. Even the packaging is elegant with a picture of heart-shaped sticky rice on a delicately flowered plate. But what’s inside the packet is the best part.

Sidenote: Apparently, there are several different spellings of pu’er, puer, pu’ehr, but so far, they’ve all been pronounced the same way. A tea sommelier or knowledgeable tea shop owner/staff member will know what you’re looking for.

Never having tried puer, I started with a one-ounce package and was pleasantly surprised when the staff weighed out a generous quantity of gold foil-wrapped tea pucks. They’re classy and adorable at the same time, kind of like a tiny tea treasure.

Sidenote: My puer is approximately ¾” in diameter, and while research has revealed that the larger offerings of puer are called a “cake,” mine are tiny, so I’m calling them pucks, probably much to the horror of tea and/or puer aficionados everywhere.

Per instructions printed on the packet, I heated my water to 212° F for brewing. While the water heated, I wondered how much the now unwrapped puer puck lovingly placed in my small tea ball would expand during the brewing process. After three minutes (also per instruction), I can report that the entire small tea ball was full of puer.

I had a feeling the tea would expand quite a bit, so I took a chance that first brewing and used an insulated mug that held two cups of water. I was rewarded with a deep mahogany tea with an aroma exactly like sticky rice. It smelled delicious, but as good as it smelled, the flavor was even more of a thrill.

As expected, sticky rice was the initial taste on my palate, but then this amazing tea progressed through a multi-faceted change from first sip through swallow to lingering flavor on my tongue. I can only describe it as rich and earthy with fresh and mellow mushroom notes, sweet and light tobacco, and enduring sticky rice. I was in love with this tea.

Sidenote: Don’t talk yourself out of this tea if you’ve had a bad experience with actual mushrooms or convinced yourself that you don’t care for them without even having tried them.

Next, I experimented. Step one was to see if I could obtain a satisfactory second brewing out of all that lovely tea. Yes, it’s possible with the same quantity of water but for an additional two minutes of brewing for a total of five. In this case, the sticky rice flavor took a back seat to the other flavors but was present after swallowing. Still delicious, just a changeup in delivery of taste.

Step two involved heating four cups of water to 212° F and brewing for five minutes with my puer puck in my large tea ball. This was optimal in flavor and color, but I learned that I need to keep the second half of my tea in an insulted mug or thermos so it stays hot. Although, I will say that puer drinks quite nicely when cool. So far, I haven’t experienced any bitterness with longer brewing or resting times.

For step three, I acted upon something one of the ladies at Ohio Tea Co. mentioned, and I tried my puer (brewed by Step Two directions) but added sugar and cream after brewing. I used whipping cream because why not go all the way with splurging? I stirred in raw sugar and warmed my cream so that it didn’t reduce the temperature of my puer.

I don’t normally drink tea with cream or sugar, and, in my opinion, the puer doesn’t require either, but oh . . . my . . . gosh . . . talk about delicious. I know I’ve called other teas “dessert in a cup,” but cream and sugar turn Sticky Rice Puer into rice pudding in your mug. I kid you not—the sweet rice flavor bursts through, the creaminess accentuates the tea, and all is right with the world when one consumes it this way.

But wait–there’s more! Sprinkle a little cinnamon across the top of your creamed and sugared Sticky Rice Puer, and you’re in Heaven. The other flavors are present in a much more subtle way, so I suggest building up to cream, sugar, and cinnamon in your Sticky Rice Puer so that you, too, can decide which brewing works best for you. Although, I won’t be surprised if, like me, you fall in love with this tea in every version presented here.

In closing, there is much about puer that one can research. My goal was to simply introduce you to puer, if you haven’t already tried it, and spark your interest in learning more about it for yourself. Now I must hasten to Ohio Tea Co. for more Sticky Rice Puer before everyone reading this post scoops it up.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve tried puer and how you enjoy drinking it. I look forward to hearing from you.

Tuesday Tea – Roasted Chestnut

This post should have been written during the holidays because that’s exactly what the tea I’m going to share tastes like, the holidays! So, forgive the hecticness of said season and the tardiness of today’s Tuesday Tea. The good thing is that it’s never too late to enjoy a cup of Roasted Chestnut from Ohio Tea Co.

I discovered this tea about two years ago, and it became a staple in the Gibson household. I recently introduced my husband to Roasted Chestnut to help with his efforts to wean himself off copious amounts of coffee. It is now his favorite go-to tea, and while I prefer to drink it black, he loves to put cream and a little raw sugar in his. Either way, this tea is dessert in a cup without being overbearing.

I believe that last detail is another reason why we’ve fallen in love with Roasted Chestnut. The rich flavor is natural on the tongue instead of sickeningly artificial. Drinking it is so satisfying that it keeps us from nibbling sugary sweets high in fat and calories. Furthermore, it’s perfect with a meal or on its own.

The aroma of this “premium Ceylon black tea flavored with roasted chestnuts” wafts out of the packet upon opening and instantly puts one in mind of caramels with nuts and butterscotch candies. Roasted Chestnut brews up a beautiful, deep mahogany red at 212° F for 4 – 5 minutes, and the taste is beyond compare. Neither flavor nor scent diminish throughout the drinking experience.

If you aren’t already familiar with Roasted Chestnut, indulge yourself today by heading over to Ohio Tea Co. to purchase some. Touring their shop is great fun (you can preview the scent of the teas and shop all the great tea paraphernalia), but if travel isn’t an option, don’t despair. The Ohio Tea Co. website provides an amazing shopping experience with detailed descriptions of the tea as well as reviews to assist with your selection.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve had Roasted Chestnut, and if so, how you prefer it: black or with cream and sugar.

The Artist’s Corner – Beauty Done Right with Aunna Cosmetics

I love shopping and promoting local businesses and small vendors. I find that both strive to create quality products at an affordable price, giving big businesses and corporations a run for their money. It’s even more of a treasure when the items I discover fall under the umbrella of artist.

Such was the case when shopping in my hometown last summer, and I happened upon Aunna Cosmetics. The lady minding the shop that day couldn’t say enough good about the budding entrepreneur who had started her own cosmetics company selling top-notch products sure to fit every budget. I simply had to try some, and let me tell you, I fell in love with Aunna Cosmetics.

Fast forward to the planning of my rapidly approaching book launch. While deciding on items to present as a gift with the purchase of my book, Aunna Cosmetics came to mind, and after reading the interview below, you’ll see why I included her products. So, without further ado, allow me to introduce Aunna.

Welcome to the Artist’s Corner. Tell me a little bit about yourself.

Hi, I’m Aunna. I’m a high school student, and I will be entering cosmetology school very soon. I collect records, and music is one of the things that inspires a lot of Aunna Cosmetics product names. At twelve years old, I started making cosmetics and selling them to friends and family but eventually opened Aunna Cosmetics in February 2021, so we are quickly approaching the two-year anniversary!

How did you become interested in cosmetics?

I have always had a love for all things beautiful. Ever since I was little, I have made lip scrubs and body scrubs in my kitchen. So, during quarantine, I decided to take my love for beauty to the next level and started Aunna Cosmetics. I began with our hydrating lip glosses and slowly started adding things like our plumping lip gloss, our best-selling whipped lip scrubs, body scrubs, bath salts, and body silks.

Do you take requests for specific products? If so, what’s your process for working with the customer?

At the moment, the only products that are customizable are products I already make (lip glosses, whipped lip scrubs, plumping lip glosses, linen and body sprays, body scrubs, body silk, and bath salts), but I would love to have that flexibility in the future!

If you would like a custom product for things like a gift bag or for your salon, you can contact me directly. I will go through the steps with you to figure out which product you are looking to customize with scent, color, if you want a custom label, etc. Then we can go from there!

Tell me a little bit about the how and why behind choosing your ingredients. What is most important to you?

When I am in the formulation phase of a product, it is really important to me for all my products to be clean, which means making sure they are vegan, cruelty-free, and gluten-free. I also make sure that my body care products are made of natural ingredients like shea butter, mango butter, and coconut oil.

What can we expect from Aunna Cosmetics in the future?

I would love to eventually branch out into making more forms of makeup like eyeshadow pallets, lipsticks, blushes, and highlighters, and I would love to open my own salon at one point and have that tie into Aunna Cosmetics.

Would you say you put yourself into your products, and if so, how?

Things that inspire Aunna Cosmetics products are things I’m interested in and/or love, like pop culture, music, and fashion. I also spend a lot of time on Aunna Cosmetics social media making the products match the aesthetic I think will complement it at that moment.

What’s your favorite product to make and why?

My favorite product to make is definitely any form of lip gloss. But my favorite part is when I make a glitter or pigmented gloss, and I get to mix that into the oils, just to make sure it is the perfect color before adding it into the base.

What’s your favorite product to use and why?

My favorite product to use is the Good Vibes Crystal Body Silks. It leaves your body moisturized and hydrated without being overly greasy, and they smell amazing! Body silks are a great form of hydration when your arms, underarms, feet, legs, or back are feeling dry or dull. It is intended for everyday use and is formulated with skin-loving ingredients like sweet almond oil and coconut oil to bring your skin back to life. They also come with a free crystal!

Are you featured in local stores?

You can find Aunna Cosmetics products in-store at Thirty-two 8 Inspired & Co. in Hartville, Ohio; pH5 Salon in Wadsworth, Ohio; or Handmade Haven in Strongsville, Ohio.

Where can someone find you online? How does a client contact you?

My website, Aunna Cosmetics, features social media buttons at the upper lefthand side for Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube. Please feel free to reach out to me via any one of these as well as the Direct Message icon at the lower righthand side of my website. You can find me on Etsy as AunnaCosmetics where I can be messaged. I can also be contacted at aunnacosmetics@gmail.com.

Legacy of Love

I’ve always enjoyed Joanna Trollope’s writing because she captures and portrays the nature of human relationships with accuracy. Writing as Caroline Harvey, the name she used for her historical romances, Trollope provides the reader with a triple dose of her writing style in her novel Legacy of Love.

The story begins with Charlotte, a beautiful, passionate young woman who is dissatisfied with the social conventions of what she perceives to be her uninspiring life. Marriage removes her from Victorian London to exotic Afghanistan where her adventures unfold. Scandal dogs her every step, but Charlotte is impervious and indifferent to the gossip.

Charlotte’s story is told from the POV of her beloved sister, Emily. Although Emily sees Charlotte’s faults, she is devoted to her older sister and can barely contemplate her displeasure let alone express it. Charlotte often takes advantage of Emily’s sweet nature, and in my opinion, her actions come across as bullying . . . in the sweetest of ways.

When Charlotte meets the love of her life, a man as dashing and wild as she, they present an unstoppable pair who surmount every crisis and are the ones to whom everyone else looks for strength and encouragement. Unfortunately, when nothing extraordinary is occurring, Charlotte and her man are rather useless people who are unable to make a home or farm their land.

While Charlotte could have been an example of a strong woman who met every challenge with dignity, she ended up reading like a selfish, self-made legend whose only purpose was to entertain herself and her husband. This is never more clear than when she tossed over her first husband, who naturally expected Charlotte to conduct herself like a Victorian lady, and did nothing to earn her lack of interest or commitment. He was conveniently killed in battle.

The legend of Charlotte continues to cause damage when her own daughter, Iskandara, is born with a twisted leg and average looks. Iskandara cannot live up to the myth of Charlotte, and she allows this to distort her spirit as badly as her leg. Her lifelong disappointment is taken out on her own daughter, Alexandra.

Alexandra holds center court for the middle portion of the novel. She, too, lives in awe of her grandmother, Charlotte, but instead of trying to imitate her, Alexandra flees her grandmother’s larger-than-life persona that continues to haunt the family estate long after her death.

Emily, now a great aunt without children of her own, provides refuge and guidance for Alexandra in what read like classic Jane Austen. A bit of reverse psychology executed by Emily crowbars the backward Alexandra out of her complacency and into the life she’s always dreamed of where she is the rudder of her own ship. Throw in an extremely talented, brooding, and slightly volatile artist whose career is revived when he falls in love with and paints Alexandra, and we have happily ever after à la Austen.

Cara, named after her great grandmother Charlotte, rounds out the last third of the novel. The youngest child of Alexandra, she is as enthusiastic, beautiful, and daring as her legendary great grandmother. Cara commands attention wherever she goes and is a natural born leader, but eventually, all this amounts to is that she is popular.

When World War II disrupts Cara’s plans, her self-centeredness rears its head much like Charlotte’s, however, Cara is also outrageously spoiled, so her obnoxious qualities rise to the surface to simmer most unbecomingly. It didn’t take me long to dislike Cara and realize that most of her problems are self-made.

There’s more predictability in the last third of the novel since the reader has Charlotte’s and Alexandra’s stories as a foundation for Cara, but Trollope infuses freshness and hope into the story by having Cara mature in a way that Charlotte never did. I suspected how things would turn out for Cara, which was extremely satisfying despite the obviousness of it, but counterbalancing this detail is the believability with which Trollope transitions Cara from brat to womanhood.

Cara undoes the harm Charlotte’s influence has over the lives of the women in her family by taking responsibility for herself and everyone around her not just when crises arises but during the drudge of daily life. She leads the life Charlotte wanted with far more grace, and in doing so, she grows in wisdom.

Legacy of Love is historical romance, but I found it to be so much more than simple love stories.  Trollope does a wonderful job of grounding the reader in every era without bogging the narrative down by adding too much detail. Her peripheral characters are expertly woven into the lives of her protagonists thus making them essential to the tale, and her conclusions are pleasurable without being overly sentimental.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve read Legacy of Love or any Joanna Trollope novel. I’d love to compare reviews.

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